Also, I cheated several times on this list. There are a few cases once in a while - though most horror fans won't believe me - where both original films and their remakes were awesome. And I've lumped them together here so I can cover more of my favorite invasion flicks. You like more awesome, don't you?
Honorable Mentions? Yeah, we got some honorable mentions for you.
Honorable Mention: War of the Worlds (1953), Earth vs. The Flying Saucers (1956), Mars Needs Women (1967), Superman II (1980), Night of the Creeps (1986), Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988), Independence Day (1996), The Faculty (1998)
Some notes on those Honorable Mentions:
- A lot of people will probably balk at the exclusion of War of the Worlds, Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, and Independence Day, which have a lot of great publicity and a lot of great special effects for their eras. While each film features a pretty widespread invasion, I got a few more cerebral picks ahead of them. (And a couple that are much dumber too.)
- Sure, any Superman film could technically be an Alien Invasion film, but General Zod and his awkward friends are pretty much the best kind of invaders. I won't quite kneel, but I'll give him some props.
- YOU GUYS! The Faculty is seriously underrated. There, I said it.
Number 11 - Bloodsuckers from Outer Space (1984)
Bloodsuckers from Outer Space is certainly one of those movies that is so bad that it's....bad. But at the same time it's kind of not. Heck, the IMDB voters - who are generally the cruelest and most genre unfriendly people on our planet - even have given it a 5.2 out of ten rating. A 5.2 on IMDB for a movie with these production values is like a Nobel Peace Prize for someone with Hitler's racial beliefs. Anyway, Bloodsuckers from Outer Space is terribly silly, but it's got that odd feeling like this whole small town was in on the joke and everyone chipped in and made this goofy flick a ton of fun. So it's kind of awesome.
Number 10 - Not of this Earth (1957, 1988)
Speaking of silly, you won't find two filmmakers who are more open to cheese than Roger Corman and Jim Wynorski. And the story behind Not of this Earth, featuring a nurse who works for an odd character who turns out to be an emissary from a distant land (and I don't mean Kansas), lends itself to their kind of cheese. The former film is a black and white drive-in classic led by Paul "Marlboro Man" Birch, the latter is full of comedic turns and led by former porn star Traci Lords. Both films are charming enough to hit this list, in their own ways.
Number 9 - The Arrival (1996)
It's probably not a good idea to put a Charlie Sheen film this close to one starring a porn star, but I'm gonna risk it. The Arrival arrived (oof, that stung) early in the Summer of 1996 - just before Independence Day was released to much hype - and kind of fell on deaf ears throughout the world. But director David Twohy's film is a pretty smart sci-fi chiller, with Sheen's Zane Zaminski (major bonus points for cool character name!) uncovering a secret signal and then battling wits with a dastardly Ron Silver (and you all should know just how much The Mike loves Ron Silver - it's a lot). The action and the effects that big budget sci-fi flicks are known for aren't here, but I'll take it over its much bigger 1996 counterpart any day of the week.
Number 8 - The Hidden (1987)
I've written about The Hidden before, but it bears repeating that this might be the '80s coolest sci-fi flick. The action packed story follows a creature that inhabits human bodies and gets a little silly when the special effects come into play, but the brisk pace keeps the film going so fast that you barely notice anything amiss. The Hidden also capitalizes on political concerns of the '80s and seems to throw a huge middle finger at the culture of the time, particularly in ritzy Los Angeles. I can dig it.
Number 7 - Men in Black (1997)
The legendary guardians against all kinds of alien invasiony nonsense take form in Barry Sonnenfeld's summer blockbuster, and face off with a one alien wrecking crew: "The Bug", portrayed in human form by Vincent D'Onofrio. Sure, the invasion is a secondary part of the film to Will Smith's evolution from cool dude to wise and cool dude, but it's still one of the most charming sci-fi comedies out there. And Tommy Lee Jones' straight man opposite utter chaos is always welcome.
Number 6 - Invaders from Mars (1953, 1986)
One of the first invasion films to make a connection to the Cold War and communism, the original Invaders from Mars comes to the viewer from the perspective of a young boy who witnesses an invasion. The invasion that follows has the required amount of military involvement and parent manipulation, which helps the film overcome some problems in acting and direction. Tobe Hooper's 1986 remake uses more comedy and more special effects, and is a good time-passer.
Number 5 - The Blob (1958)
Did you really think I wasn't gonna mention The Blob? Sure, his (Or is it a her? Do Blobs even have genders? Are there more than one Blob? We never really know!) invasion was stopped pretty quickly by really old teenagers, but he wins plenty of style points for being one of the few amorphous invaders in film history. And I love The Blob, so it's on the list. NEXT.
Number 4 - Predator (1987)
I'm sure he wasn't voted "Most Likely to Blow Himself Up on Another Planet Because of an Austrian Lunkhead" when he graduated his planet's equivalent of high school, which makes the ill-fated invasion by the Predator all the more sad. But his movie is still pretty amazing, so I'm willing to give some credit to the Predator for being the baddest humanoid one-man invasion crew ever. He couldn't have predicted that he was going to run into Schwarzenegger, Weathers, and the rest of the bad-asses, and we can't hold that against him.
Number 3 - The Thing From Another World/The Thing (1951, 1982)
I'm probably undervaluing The Thing here, mostly because it wins almost every time I make a list. Both versions of this story vary greatly, and both represent different kinds of invaders. Much like the last two films, the invaders are slowed by factors outside their control - in these cases, location. The original Thing gets bonus points for basically birthing the "watch the skies" craze of the '50s, while the remake gets bonus points for just being really awesome.
Number 2 - They Live (1988)
What if the invasion is already here? That's the question asked - and answered by a nameless blue-collar worker - in They Live, which has has long been one of my favorite movies to talk about. Like The Hidden, we get a look at how greed can be involved in an '80s Los Angeles invasion, but this time it's human greed taking the lead instead of alien greed. I've spent a lot of words on how important I think They Live is before, so I'm just gonna let it tell its own story this time around.
Number 1 - Invasion of Body Snatchers/Body Snatchers (1956, 1978, 1993)
First things first - I'm not as wild about the '78 remake as everyone else is. Yes, Sutherland and Nimoy. No, it's not as scary as people say and the ending's kind of dumb. And it's way too long. It's good. It's not great.
That said, the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers is the definitive sci-fi paranoia epic. From Kevin McCarthy's howling lead performance to the cool pod people effects, there's plenty to love about the movie that's spawned three remakes. My favorite of those, as evidenced above, is Abel Ferrara's 1993 Body Snatchers. With a script by horror maestros Stuart Gordon and Larry Cohen, an ominous army base setting, and wonderful performances by the Gabrielle Anwar, Meg Tilly, and Forest Whitaker.
Though the flying saucers and little green men get the most headlines, it's the invaders that we can't easily see that provide the most chills and thrills for viewers. Siegel knew that, and the story he created lives on - in many different tellings (though it's best we just don't mention The Invasion, isn't it?) - as my favorite alien invasion.
Except for maybe this one....