Thanks to Jordan Peele’s “Nope” finally landing in theaters this summer — and the release of the U.S. National Intelligence report on UAPs (that’s “unidentified aerial phenomena”) from this same time last year — extraterrestrial life is once again at the forefront of humanity’s pop culture hive mind.
It makes sense that audiences would turn to the skies in 2022: a time of existential dread and general ennui that’s left many screaming for escape and wondering “What else?” But where the enduring nostalgia of “E.T.” or the effortless charm of “Earth Girls Are Easy” might have made emotional contact in the past, a burning need to really feel something has festered.
The scariest alien movies terrify in many of the same ways the scariest earth-bound horror movies do: building (and sometimes killing) likable characters; producing otherworldly visual displays with seriously grim implications; getting the jump scares, if applicable, timed just right; and daring to put the unimaginably terrible on screen. Alien flicks further distinguish themselves through the subgenre’s unparalleled ability to explore the unknown, conjuring up heinous fates for humans so sweepingly sadistic few other films can attempt them.
Director Olatunde Osunsanmi’s “The Fourth Kind” enumerates the taxonomy of human-alien interactions well: “They have different categories for these types of things, different levels. An encounter of the first kind, that’s when you see a UFO. The second kind is when you see evidence of it: crop circles or radiation. The third kind is when you make contact. But the fourth kind: there is nothing more frightening than the fourth. That one is when they abduct you.”
John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, M. Night Shyamalan, James Gunn, and now Peele are among the Hollywood heavyweights who have set their twisted imaginations to actually creating these encounters for the big screen. Along the way, these filmmakers have made salient points about human nature, questioning what we owe to one another in the face of certain doom.
Ranging from the disturbingly goofy (“Bad Taste,” “Slither”) to the menacingly mean (“Alien,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”), here are the 21 absolute scariest alien movies ever made. To keep things interesting, two restrictions apply: (1) only one movie per franchise and (2) it’s the remake or original, but never both.