7 alien and UFO movies to watch after Nope

Suitably shooketh by Jordan Peele’s latest? Here are the extra terrestrial masterpieces to watch next.

by Douglas Greenwood
21 July 2022, 11:14am

The title of Jordan Peele’s latest movie is a warning sign: look to the skies and you’ll see something you wish you didn’t. Nope, which arrives in US theatres this week, stars Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer as a brother-sister duo working on a ranch that trains horses for Hollywood. No spoilers, but in the midst of their whole thing, UFOs appear from above. What the aliens inside are promising though -- whether they come in peace or with the intention of annihilating life on earth -- you’ll simply have to watch to find out.

Either way, it’s nice to see the UFO movie make a comeback. In the 90s and early 2000s, you couldn’t move for movies that centred extra terrestrials as the ultimate popcorn movie antagonist. Nowadays, the mystery of their existence continues to make them exciting to us. So without further ado, here are seven movies about aliens coming to earth. Lock your windows and don’t look up. 

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, 1977)

Shortly after Jaws made him a household name, Steven Spielberg made his mark on sci-fi with Close Encounters of the Third Kind. An electric lineman named Roy Neary is his protagonist; an unassuming figure in society who, one night, has a close encounter (geddit?) with a UFO, thus instigating a country-crossing journey to get to the bottom of where they came from and who, or what, might be flying them. 

Super 8 (J.J. Abrams, 2011)

Set in 1979 America, just two years after the release of Close Encounters, J.J. Abrams’ brilliant alien coming-of-ager Super 8 is an underrated classic of the genre. It tells the story of a group of friends who spend their spare time making a zombie movie on a super 8 camera. But when they’re filming in a train yard late at night, they witness a crash that derails a carriage, inadvertently unleashing a dangerous alien into the town. A wild hybrid of E.T., Stranger Things and Cloverfield that features one of Elle Fanning’s finest performances. 

The War of the Worlds (Byron Haskin, 1953)

Before Tom Cruise arrived in 2005 with his disaster-heavy adaptation, The War of the Worlds was a famously contentious work of alien fiction. H.G. Wells’ novel — about two brothers living in the south of England as martians descend from the sky and invade — remains a classic to this day. It’s perhaps best known for its 1938 radio broadcast which sent folks listening into a spiral, believing aliens were actually invading. But the first screen adaptation came in 1953, where the book’s location was changed to California. Today it remains a pivotal piece of sci-fi cinema. 

Signs (M Night Shyamalan, 2002)

A contemporary classic of sci-fi cinema, and M Night Shyamalan’s last unequivocally great film, Signs transports the viewer to the rural, wheatfield-filled farms of Pennsylvania. There, a minister and his family have moved into a farmhouse, only to be plagued by the arrival of crop circles in the night. The conceit of the film rests mainly on the fear of what’s to come, and how a family -- largely isolated from the outside world -- will handle it. 

The Man Who Fell to Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976)

Based on a 1963 novel by Walter Tevis, and with a remake starring Chiwetel Ejiofor currently airing, this classic of sci-fi cinema is most fondly remembered as the jewel in the crown of David Bowie’s cinematic career. The glam-rock star plays Thomas Jerome Newton, a humanoid alien who crash lands on earth, having left his home planet in search of water to save a drought. But when he arrives, he’s subjected to maltreatment and corruption. A surreal take on the classic alien-comes-to-earth format.

Coherence (James Ward Byrkit, 2013)

While we’re used to thinking of spaceships when we hear the phrase UFO, the unidentified flying object that passes through the sky in Coherence is a comet. Its source is unknown, but its effect on a group of friends, who’ve gathered for a dinner party, is palpable. Suddenly, a mirror world opens up, but whether these friends are looking at reflections of themselves or otherworldly creatures with dangerous motives, is unclear. 

Critters (Stephen Herek, 1986)

An oddball alien movie that inspired multiple sequels, Stephen Herek’s Critters succeeds because it doesn’t strive to take itself too seriously. In it, a collection of ugly aliens with a thirst for flesh and blood escape while being transported from one facility to another, hijacking a ship and landing on earth. Two shape-shifting bounty hunters make the journey to the planet in an attempt to find them before they feed on the flesh and blood of earthbound folks. Critically divisive but an audience favourite, it’s no surprise Critters is still popular: four films and, most recently, a 2019 TV series, have been made.

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