15 Best Alien Invasion Horror Movies Ever Made
A Quiet Place was one of 2018's biggest surprise box office hits. The movie was made on a modest budget and directed by John Krasinski--who, at that point, was best known for his role as the hapless Jim in The Office. But it went on gross more than $340 million at the worldwide box office, and the sequel arrives later this month.
A Quiet Place was an inventive spin on one of the most familiar concepts in horror and sci-fi--the alien invasion movie. While no one in the film actually describes the marauding creatures as aliens, Krasinski subsequently confirmed that "they're from another planet." And really, what else could they be? We don't discover how exactly they arrived on earth, but it looks like A Quiet Place: Part 2 might answer some of these questions.
HG Wells' classic novel The War of the Worlds laid the groundwork for alien invasion storytelling, but it was during the sci-fi movie boom of the 1950s that it became a popular idea for filmmakers to explore. There have been dozens--possibly hundreds--of examples made since then. The most effective movies have always been the scarier ones, that combine sci-fi with horror and truly exploit man's fear of being invaded by a terrifying alien force.
From tentacled beasts and amorphous blobs to shapeshifting extraterrestrials and deadly parasites, alien invaders have taken many forms over the years. And as A Quiet Place proved, a simple twist on the formula can still result in some highly effective and scary cinema. So here's a look at some of the best alien invasion horror movies ever made...
15. Critters (1986)
The huge success of 1984's Gremlins inspired a brief subgenre of "little monster" movies, including such "classics" as Ghoulies and Troll. Critters was by far the second best example. The movie focused on a group of fuzzy, fanged aliens who escape from the clutches of intergalactic bounty hunters and set to work munching their way through a small American town. It's a fast-moving and entertaining B-movie that doesn't take itself remotely seriously, and was the directing debut for Stephen Herek, who would subsequently score comedy success with the Mighty Ducks and Bill & Ted Excellent Adventure. It was followed by three sequels in the '90s, and two recent reboots--the Shudder series Critters: A New Binge and the TV movie Critters Attack.
14. They Live (1988)
As in A Quiet Place, the alien invasion in John Carpenter's They Live has already happened at the point the movie begins. The difference is that no one has realised. The film's concept is that aliens live among us as rich elites and have enslaved the human race by disguising themselves as humans--controlling the population through subliminal messages in the mass media. Luckily for mankind, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper is on-hand to chew bubblegum and kick ass. This might not be classic Carpenter, but it's still a hugely enjoyable movie that makes some clever satirical points before descending into an over-the-top actionfest.
13. The Blob (1988)
Like '80s versions of The Thing and The Fly, The Blob was a remake of a 1950s B-movie that is far superior to the original. Director Chuck Russell and writer Frank Darabont's update of the 1958 creature feature made the most of then cutting-edge visual effects, with the titular alien mass now a terrifying, pulsating, creeping mass, rather than a big blob of wobbling jello. It's a fast-moving, enjoyable film that weaves a conspiracy subplot into the gloopy alien action.
12. Attack the Block (2011)
Comedian Joe Cornish made his directorial debut with this outstanding British alien invasion horror thriller, which combines gritty urban drama with John Carpenter-inspired sci-fi action. The cast is led by two actors who subsequently became known for their roles in huge sci-fi franchises--John Boyega, who plays Finn in the recent Star Wars movies, and current Doctor Who Jodie Whittaker. In his debut role, Boyega plays the leader of a teenager gang who must fight against a horde of terrifying alien creatures, who are attacking his housing project, while Whittaker plays a nurse drawn into the mayhem. It's a tense and often scary film, with inventive monster design and a brilliant calling-card performance from Boyega.
11. Monsters (2010)
Godzilla and Rogue One director Gareth Edwards's debut movie is an effective low-budget film which sets a romantic road movie against the backdrop of an alien invasion. As Monsters starts, the earth is already six years into the invasion, with mankind learning to exist alongside huge tentacled creatures who now inhabit that planet with them. Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able play two Americans attempting to escape Central America, who fall in love while trying to not get killed by these multi-limbed beasts.
10. Night of the Creeps (1986)
The 1980s was the decade of the horror comedy, and inevitably, there were some less serious examples of the alien invasion film. Fred Dekker's cult favourite Night of the Creeps focuses on alien slugs who infect partying students by entering their mouths and burrowing into their brains, turning them into mindless zombies. Dekker throws every horror genre he can think of into the mix, and the movie features a glorious performance from genre veteran Tom Atkins as a hard-drinking cop with some of the best one-liners of the decade.
9. War of the Worlds (2005)
HG Wells's 1897 novel The War of the Worlds set the template for alien invasion stories over the next century and has been adapted for cinema, TV, and the stage many times since. The 1953 Hollywood version, directed by Byron Haskin, remains a sci-fi classic, but it's Steven Spielberg's 2005 adaptation that takes the movie furthest into horror territory. The big change that this film makes is that the aliens do not arrive en masse in ships--they visited earth a long time before, leaving terrifying machines buried deep underground, until the moment they return to take control of them. It's an intense and often scary film, that follows Tom Cruise's character as he attempts to keep his family alive while taking them to the safety of his ex-wife's house.
8. Slither (2006)
Guardians of the Galaxy and The Suicide Squad director James Gunn might now be one of the biggest names in superhero movies, but his filmmaking roots lie in horror. His 2006 movie Slither was a horror comedy that updates Night of the Creeps' alien brain parasite story to gory and hilarious effect. In this case, the parasite crashes near a small town and takes over the body of a wealthy local man (Gunn regular Michael Rooker), transforming him into a weird, slimy, tentacled monster able to split a man in half with one quick strike from his gooey tendrils.
6/7. Annihilation (2017)/The Color From Out of Space (2019)
While the majority of the movies on this list deal with invading alien monsters, invasions can exist in other forms too. Both Alex Garland's Annihilation and Richard Stanley's The Color From Out of Space deal with a strange, spectral alien force that changes the perception of reality for those who encounter it. Annihilation is clearly influenced by the same HP Lovecraft novel that Color From Out Of Space is directly adapted from, but both take a different approach--Garland's film is an enigmatic sci-fi movie while Stanley goes for a more gloopy horror approach with a typically mad performance from Nicolas Cage. But both are scary and mysterious films that evoke their terror in more unusual ways than the average monster movie.
5. The Faculty (1998)
After successfully deconstructing the slasher genre in the Scream series, writer Kevin Williamson took on the alien invasion movie with The Faculty. Like Scream, it uses a high school setting as a backdrop for its mayhem, in this case, an alien parasite which starts taking control of the teachers. The young cast includes Elijah Wood, Josh Hartnett, and Jordana Brewster, while the likes of Robert Patrick and Famke Janssen make for creepy alien teachers. It's got a typically funny and subversive screenplay and energetic direction from Robert Rodrigeuz (From Dusk Till Dawn, Alita: Battle Angel), and remains one of the '90s best horror movies.
4. Cloverfield (2008)
The huge success of the Blair Witch Project in 1999 inspired dozens of found-footage horror movies over the next decade and beyond. The JJ Abrams-production Cloverfield was one of the bigger budget examples and marked the directing debut of The Batman's Matt Reeves. It's an alien invasion movie that takes inspiration from Godzilla, and features giant rampaging alien monsters that lay waste to New York City. The found footage technique means that the movie was scary and immersive, as the heroes of the story attempt to escape the city.
3. Signs (2002)
M. Night Shyamalan's invasion movie avoids many of the clichés of the genre to instead focus on a family and how they react to the realisation that hostile extraterrestrials have come to Earth. It uses the mystery of crop circles as a starting point, then becomes an exploration of faith, as Mel Gibson's disillusioned former priest wrestles with his beliefs in the face of unbelievable terror. It's also an incredibly gripping movie, that slowly builds the tension masterfully. The scene in which a group of kids spot an alien for the first time remains one of the greatest scares of the decade.
2. The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter's remake of 1952's The Thing from Another World is a masterpiece of the genre. While the invasion in this case starts with just one organism--an an ancient alien found frozen in the ice in Norway and thawed out by a scientific team--the danger quickly becomes a threat to civilisation. The alien is a shapeshifting entity that assimilates humans and animals and can quickly spread like a virus. The brilliant ensemble cast, Carpenter's masterful direction, and Rob Bottin's incredible make-up effects make this as effective now as it was nearly 40 years ago.
1. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1953/1978/1996)
Don Seigel's scary sci-fi classic has been remade three times so far, with surprisingly strong results almost every time. The original remains a chilling classic, as humans are gradually replaced by "pod people"--identical versions grown from alien seeds and intent on world domination. Philip Kaufman's 1978 version kept the story but added an extra layer of post-Watergate paranoia, while Abel Ferrara's tense 1996 remake Body Snatchers moved the story to a military base. All three movies are recommended--you can skip 2007's redundant The Invasion however.