A newly described glass sponge species, dubbed the "E.T. sponge,” has two holes in its body that reminded researchers of the alien from the movie.
Humanity’s ideas of alien existence often says more about us than the little green men we envision. Our conception of life beyond Earth reflects our collective hopes and fears about the unknown and about technology, as well as our knowledge of the larger universe — which changes dramatically as time goes on.
No medium has more vividly captured and utilized scenarios of extraterrestrial life better than film. Aliens first appeared on screen in 1902, in Georges Méliès’s “A Trip to the Moon.” After 1947 — in which civilian pilot Kenneth Arnold’s UFO sightings and the discovery of a mysterious “flying disc” near Roswell, New Mexico occurred — a subculture devoted to otherworldly creatures called “ufology” emerged, leaving a lasting mark on cinema.
As America dealt with the Red Scare in the 1950s, influential alien films like “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “War of the Worlds” used intergalactic characters to reflect citizens’ fear of Communism and other “outsiders,” as well as humanity's penchant to destroy itself from within. Extraterrestrials were also common sci-fi horror monsters, ranging from the titular alien in Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic to the shape-shifting arctic creature in “The Thing.” However, in the 1970s and 1980s, friendlier and sometimes lovable aliens were also reflected in movies such as “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” and “Cocoon.” These days, otherworldly characters appear in a wide range of roles, from the alien force that mutates biological creatures in “Annihilation” to the more kindly, time-bending heptapods of “Arrival.”
With the wide number of alien movies throughout the history of film, how can viewers determine which extraterrestrial features are most worth their time? To answer that question, Stacker compiled data (as of Sept. 2, 2020) on all sci-fi movies on Letterboxd, the film-based social media network, and selected the top 50 alien movies, ranked according to their average Letterboxd score. To qualify, aliens had to be main characters or central to the plot of the film.
Here are the best alien movies of all time, starting at No. 50 and counting down to No. 1.
50 best alien movies
#50. The Vast of Night (2019)
Director: Andrew Patterson Letterboxd user rating: 3.48 IMDb user rating: 6.7 Metascore: 84 Runtime: 91 min
One night in 1950s New Mexico, a young switchboard operator (Sierra McCormick) and radio DJ (Jake Horowitz) uncover a strange radio frequency that seems to be extraterrestrial. Andrew Patterson’s debut feature was inspired by real-life unexplained events, such as the Kecksburg Incident and the Foss Lake disappearances.
#49. Starman (1984)
Director: John Carpenter Letterboxd user rating: 3.49 IMDb user rating: 7.0 Metascore: 70 Runtime: 115 min
In “Starman,” an alien (Jeff Bridges) becomes stranded on Earth and assumes the form of a late Midwestern man named Scott to blend in. As he races to reunite with a vessel from his home planet, Starman finds himself falling in love with Scott’s widow, Jenny (Karen Allen). Bridges was nominated for Best Actor at the 1985 Academy Awards for his portrayal of the titular alien.
#48. Gandahar (1987)
Director: René Laloux Letterboxd user rating: 3.51 IMDb user rating: 7.1 Metascore: data not available Runtime: 78 min
Based on Jean-Pierre Andrevon’s 1969 novel “The Machine-Men vs. Gandahar,” this French animated film takes place on the utopian planet of Gandahar. As the story begins, the characters’ peaceful society is threatened when an ancient army arrives and begins turning their victims to stone.
#47. The Brother from Another Planet (1984)
Director: John Sayles Letterboxd user rating: 3.53 IMDb user rating: 6.7 Metascore: 70 Runtime: 108 min
Joe Morton stars as “The Brother,” a mute humanoid alien who crash lands near Ellis Island. Although The Brother finds refuge in Harlem, he is soon pursued through the New York City neighborhood by a pair of intergalactic bounty hunters. In an interview with Cinema Gotham, director John Sayles noted that the film was about “the immigrant experience,” and is “a story of assimilation.”
#46. Men in Black (1997)
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld Letterboxd user rating: 3.54 IMDb user rating: 7.3 Metascore: 71 Runtime: 98 min
Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones lead this sci-fi action comedy, playing two agents of a secret organization called the Men in Black. Their job is to supervise the extraterrestrial creatures who live on Earth, and conceal their existence from ordinary humans. However, things are thrown into chaos when they uncover an alien assassin’s plot to kill two alien ambassadors living in New York City. “Men in Black” became a box office hit, leading to multiple sequels and an animated children’s series. You may also like: Best Grateful Dead albums of all time
#45. Time Masters (1982)
- Director: René Laloux - Letterboxd user rating: 3.54 - IMDb user rating: 7.4 - Metascore: data not available - Runtime: 78 min In the French animated film “Time Masters,” a boy named Piel (Frédéric Legros) is trapped on a planet overrun by enormous killer hornets. It’s up to space adventurer Jaffar (Jean Valmont) and an exiled prince and princess to travel through space and rescue Piel before it’s too late.
#44. From Beyond (1986)
- Director: Stuart Gordon - Letterboxd user rating: 3.55 - IMDb user rating: 6.7 - Metascore: data not available - Runtime: 85 min Loosely based on H.P. Lovecraft’s short story with the same name, this body horror sci-fi movie opens as obsessive scientist Dr. Pretorious (Ted Sorel) discovers a way to access a parallel world. However, strange creatures from another dimension soon drag him into their world, returning him as a malformed shape-shifter who begins attacking his laboratory colleagues.
#43. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
- Director: James Gunn - Letterboxd user rating: 3.55 - IMDb user rating: 7.6 - Metascore: 67 - Runtime: 136 min In this follow-up to James Gunn’s popular Marvel sci-fi film, “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill meets his long-lost alien father (Kurt Russell)—but things aren’t what they seem, leaving Peter and the other Guardians to save the universe from destruction. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” was praised for its blend of intergalactic humor and thoughtful explorations of found families and parental trauma.
#42. Attack the Block (2011)
- Director: Joe Cornish - Letterboxd user rating: 3.56 - IMDb user rating: 6.6 - Metascore: 75 - Runtime: 88 min Before John Boyega played Finn in a galaxy far, far away, he starred in another well-regarded sci-fi film called “Attack the Block.” The movie centers on a gang of South London teens, who take it upon themselves to defend their block from murderous alien invaders.
#41. The World's End (2013)
- Director: Edgar Wright - Letterboxd user rating: 3.57 - IMDb user rating: 7.0 - Metascore: 81 - Runtime: 109 min This sci-fi comedy begins as five middle-aged British friends attempt to complete an epic pub crawl that they failed to finish 20 years earlier. However, their plans go sideways when they discover that aliens have invaded their hometown that very same night. “The World’s End” is the third film in director Edgar Wright’s “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy,” a comedy anthology that also included the movies “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.” You may also like: 50 binge-worthy podcasts
#40. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
- Director: Nicholas Meyer - Letterboxd user rating: 3.57 - IMDb user rating: 7.2 - Metascore: 65 - Runtime: 110 min “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” sees the crew of the USS Enterprise transporting an alien Klingon ship to sign a peace treaty with the interstellar government of the United Federation of Planets. Trouble arises when the Klingon chancellor is suddenly assassinated, and lead characters Kirk (William Shatner) and McCoy (DeForest Kelley) stand trial for murder. Notably, this was the last “Star Trek” film starring cast members of the original 1960s TV show.
#39. Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
- Director: Jonathan Frakes - Letterboxd user rating: 3.59 - IMDb user rating: 7.6 - Metascore: 71 - Runtime: 111 min The cast of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” star in this film installment of the popular sci-fi series, as the crew of the USS Enterprise-E travel back in time to change the past and stop the evil cybernetic Borg from taking over Earth. “Star Trek: First Contact” is one of the best-reviewed “Trek” films—celebrated critic Roger Ebert considered it to be one of the best movies of the franchise at the time of its release.
#38. The Abyss (1989)
- Director: James Cameron - Letterboxd user rating: 3.59 - IMDb user rating: 7.6 - Metascore: 62 - Runtime: 171 min James Cameron’s 1989 blockbuster “The Abyss” takes its alien action deep below the ocean. Originally intended as a modern remake of Robert Wise’s “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” the story follows a civilian diving team who are tasked with searching for a missing nuclear submarine. They soon encounter danger after discovering an aquatic extraterrestrial species.
#37. The Hidden (1987)
- Director: Jack Sholder - Letterboxd user rating: 3.59 - IMDb user rating: 7.0 - Metascore: data not available - Runtime: 97 min Michael Nouri and “Twin Peaks” star Kyle MacLachlan play an FBI agent and homicide detective, respectively, hunting alien creatures who are able to take on the appearances of their human hosts. As the thriller progresses, all is not as it seems, and the two learn that they have unexpected, important roles in the shape-shifters’ mission on Earth.
#36. Voyage to the End of the Universe (1963)
- Director: Jindrich Polák - Letterboxd user rating: 3.59 - IMDb user rating: 7.0 - Metascore: data not available - Runtime: 81 min Before there was Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” there was Jindrich Polák’s “Voyage to the End of the Universe.” The Czech film unfolds through a series of vignettes as a 40-person space crew embarks on a year-long journey to a nearby star and encounter mysterious aliens in 2163. Apart from inspiring “2001,” it also incorporates elements of yet-to-be-released sci-fi classics like “The Twilight Zone” and “Star Trek.” You may also like: Most Emmy wins of all time
#35. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
- Director: Dan Trachtenberg - Letterboxd user rating: 3.6 - IMDb user rating: 7.2 - Metascore: 76 - Runtime: 103 min As “10 Cloverfield Lane” opens, a young woman who was in a car crash wakes up in an underground bunker with two men who insist that a mysterious apocalyptic disaster has made the surface of the planet uninhabitable. She quickly becomes determined to escape her captors no matter what state the planet is in, only to find that alien ships and creatures have arrived overhead. A sequel, “The Cloverfield Paradox,” debuted on Netflix in 2018.
#34. Save the Green Planet! (2003)
- Director: Jang Joon-hwan - Letterboxd user rating: 3.61 - IMDb user rating: 7.3 - Metascore: 70 - Runtime: 118 min This South Korean black comedy centers on Lee Byeong-gu, an eccentric young beekeeper who kidnaps a powerful businessman whom he believes is an alien. While Byeong-gu tortures his prisoner in hopes of stopping what he believes to be an impending Armageddon, a nearby detective searching for the man discovers that the kidnapper has committed similar, ultimately deadly crimes in the past.
#33. Treasure Planet (2002)
- Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker - Letterboxd user rating: 3.61 - IMDb user rating: 7.2 - Metascore: 60 - Runtime: 95 min Disney secured a Best Animated Feature Oscar nomination for “Treasure Planet,” an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 adventure novel of the same name. In the film, 15-year-old Jim Hawkins journeys into a parallel universe after discovering a map to the greatest pirate trove in the universe. He finds work aboard an alien space galleon, fighting off black holes and a mutinous cyborg pirate in hopes of finding the mythic treasure.
#32. Annihilation (2018)
- Director: Alex Garland - Letterboxd user rating: 3.62 - IMDb user rating: 6.8 - Metascore: 79 - Runtime: 115 min “Annihilation” revolves around a group of all-female explorers who enter The Shimmer, a quarantined disaster zone filled with mutating wildlife. As the characters unravel themselves, it becomes clear that an alien presence is responsible for the biological horrors at play. Alex Garland’s film received attention for its explorations of themes like depression and human self-destruction.
#31. Star Trek (2009)
- Director: J.J. Abrams - Letterboxd user rating: 3.62 - IMDb user rating: 7.9 - Metascore: 82 - Runtime: 127 min J.J. Abram’s reboot focuses on the main characters of the original “Star Trek” TV show, this time starring a new cast led by Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. Taking place in an alternate dimension so as not to discredit the franchise’s previous installments, the movie follows James T. Kirk and Spock as they race to stop a Romulan alien named Nero (Eric Bana) from putting the United Federation of Planets in jeopardy. The 2009 “Star Trek” won an Oscar for Best Makeup, making it the only “Trek” film to ever win an Academy Award. You may also like: Best miniseries available to stream
#30. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
- Director: Leonard Nimoy - Letterboxd user rating: 3.63 - IMDb user rating: 7.3 - Metascore: 71 - Runtime: 119 min James T. Kirk and his crew travel back in time to 1986 to stop an alien probe from devastating Earth. They do so by bringing humpback whales back to the future since the whales are the only creatures that can communicate with the probe.
#29. Galaxy Quest (1999)
- Director: Dean Parisot - Letterboxd user rating: 3.65 - IMDb user rating: 7.3 - Metascore: 70 - Runtime: 102 min “Galaxy Quest” serves as a parody of sci-fi franchises, especially “Star Trek” and its fans. Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and Alan Rickman lead the film, playing actors who previously starred in a cult space opera TV series. However, they’re drawn into a real outer space mission when actual aliens visit Earth and seek their help fighting a reptilian warlord, having mistaken the show for a documentary.
#28. Dark City (1998)
- Director: Alex Proyas - Letterboxd user rating: 3.66 - IMDb user rating: 7.6 - Metascore: 66 - Runtime: 100 min When this sci-fi noir begins, protagonist John Murdoch wakes up in an unknown hotel to find that he has been found guilty of multiple murders, with no memory of whether he committed them or not. While attempting to piece together whether or not he is innocent, John discovers a sinister underground world run by a group of aliens known only as “the Strangers.” Director Alex Proyas based the Strangers on Richard O’Brien’s “The Rocky Horror Show” character, Riff Raff, and O’Brien himself has a role in Dark City as Mr. Hand.
#27. Starship Troopers (1997)
- Director: Paul Verhoeven - Letterboxd user rating: 3.68 - IMDb user rating: 7.2 - Metascore: 51 - Runtime: 129 min “Starship Troopers” takes place in the distant future, where Earth is in the midst of a battle against a giant insect-like alien race known as Arachnids, or more colloquially, “Bugs.” Viewers are introduced to the world through a young soldier named Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien), who progresses through a futuristic military unit called the Mobile Infantry. Director Paul Verhoeven uses the conflict between humans and Bugs to satirize nationalism and xenophobia, even including visual allusions to real-life propaganda films and Nazi attire.
#26. The Avengers (2012)
- Director: Joss Whedon - Letterboxd user rating: 3.68 - IMDb user rating: 8.0 - Metascore: 69 - Runtime: 143 min Six films into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the all-star superhero team of the Avengers finally came together to stop Loki (Tom Hiddleston)—the brother of Asgardian prince Thor (Chris Hemsworth)—from conquering Earth with the help of his alien army. Marvel later introduced more intergalactic characters, notably through the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise’s central band of antiheroes. You may also like: Best-selling book series of all time
#25. Under the Skin (2013)
- Director: Jonathan Glazer - Letterboxd user rating: 3.69 - IMDb user rating: 6.3 - Metascore: 80 - Runtime: 108 min Scarlett Johansson leads “Under the Skin” as Laura, an alien femme fatale who feeds upon men who she seduces and later consumes in a mysterious liquid pool. Although the main alien is introduced as a succubus-like entity, she soon becomes dangerously embroiled in her temporary human life. In 2016, the movie ranked #61 on BBC’s “100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century” list.
#24. The Fifth Element (1997)
- Director: Luc Besson - Letterboxd user rating: 3.69 - IMDb user rating: 7.7 - Metascore: 52 - Runtime: 126 min In the 23rd century, taxi cab driver and former special forces major Korben Dallas’s (Bruce Willis) life is forever altered when a young woman named Leeloo (Milla Jovovich) suddenly falls into his car. She reveals that she is linked to four mystical stones that are missing and crucial for defending Earth against an evil cosmic force’s impending attack on the planet. They learn that the stones were put in place as safeguards by an alien race called the Mondoshawans, and race to find them before it’s too late.
#23. A Quiet Place (2018)
- Director: John Krasinski - Letterboxd user rating: 3.72 - IMDb user rating: 7.5 - Metascore: 82 - Runtime: 90 min Real-life partners John Krasinski and Emily Blunt star in “A Quiet Place” as a married couple struggling to keep their family alive after the world is invaded by blind aliens who hunt and kill anything that makes a sound. The post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama functioned as an allegory of the perils of parenthood, with a sequel film set to hit theaters in 2021.
#22. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
- Director: Doug Liman - Letterboxd user rating: 3.73 - IMDb user rating: 7.9 - Metascore: 71 - Runtime: 113 min Based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s 2004 Japanese novel "All You Need is Kill," "The Edge of Tomorrow" sees rookie soldier William Cage (Tom Cruise) and celebrated super soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) face off against Mimics, aliens who have conquered most of continental Europe by 2020. Cage becomes caught in a time loop where he’s repeatedly killed on the battlefield, but with each loop, he becomes a more skilled soldier. Cage and Rita—who has her own experience in the loop—team up and devise a plan to stop the Mimics' attack.
#21. Repo Man (1984)
- Director: Alex Cox - Letterboxd user rating: 3.74 - IMDb user rating: 6.9 - Metascore: 82 - Runtime: 92 min Set in Los Angeles, “Repo Man” follows young punk rock fan Otto (Emilio Estevez), who joins a car repossession agency and begins pursuing a Chevrolet Malibu that’s wanted for a $20,000 bounty. However, things become more complicated when Estevez learns that an alien entity is seemingly hidden in the car’s trunk. Alex Cox’s comedy is regarded as a quintessential 1980s cult classic, and pointedly takes aim at the Reagan administration’s conservative domestic and foreign policies. You may also like: Where you can watch the best movies of 2019 right now
#20. They Live (1988)
- Director: John Carpenter - Letterboxd user rating: 3.75 - IMDb user rating: 7.3 - Metascore: 55 - Runtime: 94 min This sci-fi action horror movie centers on a drifter (Roddy Piper) who gets high-tech sunglasses and learns that society’s ruling class are really aliens who are manipulating the public to adhere to the status quo and needlessly spend money by spreading subliminal messages in the media. Director John Carpenter has said that “They Live” is about “yuppies and unrestrained capitalism,” and that the political messaging was based on his criticisms of how Ronald Reagan’s “Reaganomics” policies unhealthily influenced mass media commercialization in the 1980s.
#19. District 9 (2009)
- Director: Neill Blomkamp - Letterboxd user rating: 3.75 - IMDb user rating: 7.9 - Metascore: 81 - Runtime: 112 min In an alternate 1982, sick and insectoid aliens are found in Johannesburg, South Africa and forced into an internment camp called “District 9.” Years later, a human government agent’s (Sharlto Copley) DNA begins to mutate after he’s exposed to the alien weaponry, causing him to seek refuge in District 9 as tensions between the two species escalate. The film’s premise was inspired by events that took place in Cape Town during the apartheid era, and it went on to receive four Oscar nominations (including Best Picture and Best Visual Effects).
#18. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
- Director: Don Siegel - Letterboxd user rating: 3.78 - IMDb user rating: 7.7 - Metascore: 92 - Runtime: 80 min An alien invasion begins in the fictional Californian town of Santa Mira after extraterrestrial spores fall from the sky and grow into huge seed pods, each of which produces a duplicate copy of a pre-existing human. Little by little, local doctor Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) realizes that townspeople are being quietly replaced by the aliens, and rushes to prevent more of his neighbors from being switched. “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” was adapted from Jack Finney’s 1954 sci-fi novel, “The Body Snatchers.”
#17. Predator (1987)
- Director: John McTiernan - Letterboxd user rating: 3.78 - IMDb user rating: 7.8 - Metascore: 45 - Runtime: 107 min Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in “Predator” as Alan “Dutch” Schaefer, the leader of a paramilitary rescue team tasked with saving hostages in a guerrilla-occupied Central American territory. During their mission, the team encounters a technologically advanced alien known only as “Predator,” who begins picking them off one by one. Although the film initially received mixed reviews, it was hailed as a classic action film in retrospect.
#16. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
- Director: Robert Wise - Letterboxd user rating: 3.78 - IMDb user rating: 7.7 - Metascore: data not available - Runtime: 92 min Based on Harry Bates’s short story “Farewell to the Master,” this sci-fi classic opens as an extraterrestrial spacecraft suddenly lands near the White House. A humanoid alien named Klaatu (Michael Rennie) exits with his robot bodyguard, Gort (Lock Martin), and insists that he has an extremely important message to deliver to Earth’s leaders. Although Klaatu is initially cast out by government leaders, he is taken in by a kindly woman and her son, who teach the world a moral fable about tolerance and unity. The film was directed by Robert Wise, who went on to direct iconic musical movies like “West Side Story” and “The Sound of Music.” You may also like: 30 best episodes of 'Whose Line is it Anyway?'
#15. Man Facing Southeast (1986)
- Director: Eliseo Subiela - Letterboxd user rating: 3.79 - IMDb user rating: 7.7 - Metascore: data not available - Runtime: 105 min In an Argentinian psychiatric hospital, Dr. Julio Denis (Lorenzo Quinteros) is surprised when his patient, Rantés (Hugo Soto), claims that he is actually an alien whose image was projected to Earth from light-years away. When Rantés begins to exhibit seemingly supernatural powers that support his claim, local authorities attempt to hide the man from public life and “fix” his behavior with electroshock therapy and excess medication—against Denis’s better judgment.
#14. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
- Director: Steven Spielberg - Letterboxd user rating: 3.84 - IMDb user rating: 7.6 - Metascore: 90 - Runtime: 138 min Ordinary electric lineman Roy Neary’s life gets turned upside down when he sees an unidentified flying object that he’s convinced is a UFO. Roy risks alienating his loved ones, home, and career when he dedicates his life to finding the “truth” about alien life, coming into contact with government researchers and other UFO enthusiasts as they prepare to meet extraterrestrial visitors in Wyoming. The film received eight Academy Award nominations and won for Best Cinematography.
#13. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
- Director: James Gunn - Letterboxd user rating: 3.84 - IMDb user rating: 8.0 - Metascore: 76 - Runtime: 121 min Brazen space rogue Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) runs into trouble after he steals an orb wanted by villainous alien Ronan, who threatens to destroy the entire universe. In order to stop him, Quill is forced to team up with a ragtag band of intergalactic criminals who come to be known as the Guardians of the Galaxy. The Marvel film has a standout soundtrack full of popular songs from the 1960s and 1970s and was followed by a sequel in 2017.
#12. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
- Director: Jim Sharman - Letterboxd user rating: 3.85 - IMDb user rating: 7.4 - Metascore: 58 - Runtime: 100 min In this cult classic, naive newlyweds Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon) seek help from the Transylvanian inhabitants of a creepy castle (led by Tim Curry as the seductive scientist, Dr. Frank-N-Furter) after their car breaks down. The castle’s residents are revealed to be aliens from the planet Transexual, as a night of bisexuality, cannibalism, and murder unfolds. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is one of the most popular “midnight movies” ever made, with many theaters across the U.S. hosting regular screenings that include audience participation.
#11. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
- Director: Philip Kaufman - Letterboxd user rating: 3.86 - IMDb user rating: 7.4 - Metascore: 75 - Runtime: 115 min This remake of Don Siegel’s 1956 film of the same name takes place in San Francisco, where health inspector Matthew (Donald Sutherland) and his colleague, Elizabeth (Brooke Adams), discover that humans are being replaced by emotionless alien duplicates. Although this version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” received mixed reviews upon its release, it’s now heralded as one of the greatest remakes and sci-fi horror movies ever made. You may also like: Best and worst Al Pacino movies
#10. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
- Director: Steven Spielberg - Letterboxd user rating: 3.88 - IMDb user rating: 7.8 - Metascore: 91 - Runtime: 115 min A lonely suburban boy (Henry Thomas) befriends a kind-hearted alien and decides to help the creature return to his home planet, all while government officials pursue him for their own means. Based on an imaginary friend that a young Steven Spielberg created to cope with his parents’ divorce, the beloved family film became the highest-grossing film ever at the time (a record that it held for 11 years). “E.T.” went on to garner nine Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.
#9. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
- Director: Nicholas Meyer - Letterboxd user rating: 3.89 - IMDb user rating: 7.7 - Metascore: 67 - Runtime: 113 min Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) enlists the help of the Enterprise crew to stop his longtime nemesis, the genetically engineered tyrant Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban), from acquiring a dangerous terraforming device called Genesis. “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” is the second film in the original “Star Trek” movie series, and, according to Entertainment Weekly’s Marc Bernardin, was “the film that, by most accounts, saved Star Trek as we know it” by renewing fan interest in the franchise.
#8. Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem (2003)
- Directors: Daisuke Nishio, Hirotoshi Rissen, Kazuhisa Takenouchi, Leiji Matsumoto - Letterboxd user rating: 3.91 - IMDb user rating: 7.8 - Metascore: data not available - Runtime: 68 min “Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem” is a visual companion of Daft Punk’s second studio album, “Discovery,” and tells the story of a popular intergalactic band whose members are abducted and brought to Earth by a malevolent corporation, where they are turned into emotionless automatons only focused on getting their next big hit. However, the band members soon rebel against their new identities and hope to introduce humans to their unique extraterrestrial music. The movie’s plot is a continuation of the ongoing story arc set up in multiple Daft Punk music videos: “One More Time,” “Aerodynamic,” “Digital Love,” and “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.”
#7. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
- Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo - Letterboxd user rating: 3.92 - IMDb user rating: 8.4 - Metascore: 78 - Runtime: 181 min The culmination of a story built over more than 20 Marvel films, “Avengers: Endgame” finds the remaining Avengers and their allies fighting to bring back the millions of people snapped out of existence by alien titan Thanos (Josh Brolin) at the end of “Avengers: Infinity War.” In doing so, the characters travel back in time and revisit many iconic scenes from earlier Marvel films. The Russo brothers movie was nominated for Best Visual Effects at the 2020 Academy Awards and became the highest-grossing film of all time upon its release.
#6. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
- Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo - Letterboxd user rating: 3.93 - IMDb user rating: 8.4 - Metascore: 68 - Runtime: 149 min More Marvel Cinematic Universe characters came together than ever before when “Avengers: Infinity War” came to theaters. Over the course of the film, the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy race to stop Thanos from collecting all six Infinity Stones and gaining enough power to effectively kill half of the universe. The Hollywood Reporter critic Josh Spiegel emphasized its somber ending, writing that “Infinity War” takes “a cue from the ending of 'The Empire Strikes Back' in its super-sized finale; this is the equivalent of Han Solo frozen in the carbonite, on steroids.” You may also like: Longest-running TV series
#5. Fantastic Planet (1973)
- Director: René Laloux - Letterboxd user rating: 3.94 - IMDb user rating: 7.8 - Metascore: data not available - Runtime: 72 min The French animated film “Fantastic Planet” takes place on the fictional planet of Ygam, where large, blue-skinned aliens named Draags oppress and rule over small, humanoid creatures called Oms. The Oms soon rebel, making the species question whether they can ever coexist. René Laloux’s movie contains a strong political allegory for the Soviets’ control of Czechoslovakia after 1968’s Warsaw Pact occupation and was awarded the Grand Prix special jury prize at 1973’s Cannes Film Festival.
#4. Arrival (2016)
- Director: Denis Villeneuve - Letterboxd user rating: 4.08 - IMDb user rating: 7.9 - Metascore: 81 - Runtime: 116 min Amy Adams stars as linguistics professor Louise, who heads a team of investigators responsible for making contact with aliens when 12 giant spaceships arrive at locations around the world. As her interactions with the creatures begin to mess with her sense of time, Louise scrambles to make interspecies communication before mounting tensions lead to war. Based on Ted Chiang’s short story, “Story of Your Life,” the film received eight Oscar nominations and was selected by the American Film Institute as one of the top ten “Movies of the Year.”
#3. Aliens (1986)
- Director: James Cameron - Letterboxd user rating: 4.14 - IMDb user rating: 8.3 - Metascore: 84 - Runtime: 137 min After floating adrift in space for over half a century, Ellen Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) spaceship is discovered and she is thrust into a new world. However, Ripley soon encounters the species of hostile Alien creature that killed her original crew when she joins a rescue mission to save the sole survivor of a space colony—a girl named Newt (Carrie Henn). James Cameron’s action-packed sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic garnered seven Oscar nominations (including a Best Actress nod for Weaver), and introduced several future stars, like Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton. In 2019, Empire Magazine voted “Aliens” the greatest film sequel of all time.
#2. The Thing (1982)
- Director: John Carpenter - Letterboxd user rating: 4.3 - IMDb user rating: 8.1 - Metascore: 57 - Runtime: 109 min The lives of a research team in Antarctica are threatened when they are hunted by a parasitic, shape-shifting alien with the ability to take on its victims’ appearance. Although “The Thing” received negative reviews upon its release (and had the misfortune of premiering during the same summer as "E.T.," a more lighthearted alien story), it developed a cult following and was later reappraised as one of the best sci-fi horror movies ever made.
#1. Alien (1979)
- Director: Ridley Scott - Letterboxd user rating: 4.31 - IMDb user rating: 8.4 - Metascore: 89 - Runtime: 117 min In this sci-fi horror staple, the crew of a commercial space tug’s journey back to Earth is interrupted when they are required to intercept a distress call coming from a nearby moon. One crew member is attacked by a mysterious alien life form, who grows rapidly and begins picking off the characters one by one throughout the ship. Often hailed as one of the greatest and most influential sci-fi movies ever made, “Alien” won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and made an iconic “final girl” out of its heroine, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). The film’s success led to a media franchise with three sequels, multiple Alien vs. Predator movies, a prequel film series, and more. You may also like: Song of the summer the year you graduated high school