Cosmic Cinema

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The topic of aliens is so fascinating that the genre has taken over every form of media from books, blogs and video games to inspiring food, television shows and movies. But it is the last source of aforementioned entertainment that really gets inside people’s minds. Check out our list of films that feature extraterrestrial life, and get ready to space out for a few hours.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Steven Spielberg’s 1977 classic where Indiana power company worker Roy Neary (played by Richard Dreyfuss) has his life turned upside down after an encounter with a UFO while out on a late night outage call. The final scenes offer up a special effects extravaganza culminating with a “mother ship” landing, aliens and a cameo by famed ufologist Dr. J. Allen Hynek himself, whose terminology for an alien encounter inspired Spielberg’s title.

Earth vs. The Flying Saucers

This 1956 black and white classic hit the big screen as the country began to embrace the flying saucer phenomenon. The film stars veteran character actor Hugh Marlowe as Dr. Russell Marvin, who encounters a UFO while driving to work with his wife one morning. Confrontations ensue, and the good doctor solves Earth’s problems by devising a sonic weapon to defeat the worldwide alien invasion. The real star of the film is the stop-motion special effects by the iconic Ray Harryhausen.

Fire In The Sky

This 1993 biopic is based on Travis Walton’s book The Walton Experience depicting his alleged alien abduction in 1975. Heading home from work one night with his coworkers, they encounter a UFO and Walton (played by D.B. Sweeney) decides to take a closer look. He is struck by a beam of light from the craft and knocked off his feet and his friends flee, fearing for their safety. Subsequent investigation shows no sign of Walton, who turns up five days later disoriented and is hospitalized. Walton’s flashbacks portray a terrifying abduction by aliens who performed excruciating experiments on him. In the end, many considered this a hoax, yet Walton maintains this encounter to have occurred.

Mars Attacks!

Tim Burton’s 1993 comic turn at alien visitors has a bevy of big name stars, including Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Danny DeVito, Martin Short and Michael J. Fox. This wild ride will take you on encounters with a herd of cattle on fire, a Martian massacre of the U.S. Congress, a failed presidential assassination, the destruction of Las Vegas. Finally, the world is saved by western singing star Slim Whitman’s version of “Indian Love Call.” Don’t ask—you’ve got to see this for yourself.

Signs

Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, this emotionally charged 2002 film stars Mel Gibson as Graham Hess, a former minister, living with his family on an isolated farm in Pennsylvania. He discovers a crop circle in his field, and soon begins to hear of these popping up around the globe. TV reports begin to emerge of strange lights in the skies, and even a chilling camcorder video of an alien walking near a children’s birthday party in Brazil—the world is under attack. The invasion finds Hess and his family huddled in their basement as the aliens crawl around above them. After a frightening encounter with a creature once they go back upstairs, the news is that the invasion has been aborted. You’ll have to watch the movie to find out why.

The Day The Earth Stood Still

This 1951 classic stars Michael Rennie as alien visitor Klaatu who lands his flying saucer in a Washington, D.C. park. As he emerges to announce he’s come in peace, he’s quickly shot and wounded by the surrounding army and taken to nearby Walter Reed hospital where he manages his escape. Taking residence at a nearby boarding house, he’s befriended by young Bobby who helps him find “the greatest living person” in the form of scientist Dr. Barnhardt, who’s asked by Klaatu to deliver his dire message to the proper authorities—Earth’s misuse of atomic power could lead to “Earth being eliminated.” Requesting a harmless display of power from Klaatu to help his mission, it’s arranged in the form of neutralizing all electricity on earth for 30 minutes. Klaatu’s final message as he departs: “Your choice is simple: join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We will be waiting for your answer.”

The Thing From Another World

A 1951 classic where a U.S. Air Force crew and scientists discover a crashed flying saucer and a humanoid in the Arctic ice near their remote outpost. They bring the frozen body back to camp in a block of ice and a 24-hour watch is posted. Thanks to an electric blanket draped over it by an airman who was creeped out by the whole thing, thaws the ice, the creature escapes and the search begins. The real creep factor is that you see very little of the large spaceman (played by James Arness of TV’s Gunsmoke fame), but expect him to pop out at every turn. It all comes to an end when the crew draws the humanoid (they discover it’s an advanced form of plant life) into a trap and electrocutes him into a small pile of burnt veggies.

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