ByRicky Derisz, writer at
Staff Writer at MP. "Holy cow, Rick! I didn't know hanging out with you was making me smarter!" Twitter: @RDerisz.
Ricky Derisz

Should aliens ever land on Earth, there are two distinct possibilities of what the outcome will be. The first, all-out war. The second, peace. Considering humanity's track record, it's probably a safe bet to err on the side of the former, but that doesn't mean an attempt at mediation would be futile.

Denis Villeneuve's centers around the fragility of such a mediation, the unthinkably high-stakes stand-off between human and extra-terrestrial. It's a scenario that has played out on cinema screens numerous times for decades, with the results a mixture between both extremes of harmony and violence.

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Below are some of the best imagined scenarios of what would happen if us humans ever encounter an entirely different, non-Earth bound sentient race. Seen Arrival? Move on to these next. Not seen Arrival? These will whet your appetite. It really is win-win.

7. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' [Credit: Columbia Pictures]
'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' [Credit: Columbia Pictures]

Director: Steven Spielberg

Legendary director dabbles in multitude of genres, with almost everything he touches turning to box office gold. Two years after he revolutionaized horror with Jaws, his directorial follow-up turned to science fiction.

Close Encounters is an alien contact story with a twist; rather than a hostile, serious threat — which was common for movies around that era — our intergalactic neighbours are depicted as humane and peaceful.

As well as eight Oscar nominations (winning one), many aspects of the movie are now ingrained in pop-culture, including the iconic theme tune.

6. Alien (1979)

'Alien' [Credit: 20th Century Fox]
'Alien' [Credit: 20th Century Fox]

Director: Ridley Scott

From peaceful alien encounters to... not so peaceful. Alien is one of the most defining movies of both horror and the sci-fi, spawning a host of face-hugging sequels that continue to present day, with the release of Alien: Covenant next year.

The story centers around the crew aboard the spaceship Nostromo, and their subsequent hapless battle with a deadly extra-terrestrial who cunningly infiltrates the ship. It's a film that has aged incredibly well, relying on old-school tension building techniques to get under (and burst out of) the audience's skin.

5. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

'E.T' [Credit: Universal Pictures]
'E.T' [Credit: Universal Pictures]

Director: Steven Spielberg

I'm not saying that there are aliens living amongst us, integrating into society in stealth-mode, gaining intelligence, understand the way we function, collecting data to either annihilate or fix all the world's problems, but, if there were, I wouldn't rule out Steven Spielberg being one of them.

On top of Close Encounters, the director produced more pro-alien propaganda with E.T., the story of the lovable (see: also a bit terrifying) alien who befriends a school kid in his request to return home. As alien encounters go, it's one of the sweetest and arguably one of the best sci-fi movies ever made.

4. Independence Day (1996)

Director: Roland Emmerich

Alien contact receives the Emmerich treatment in Independence Day, a movie focusing on the colossal battle against an extra-terrestrial attack that threatens to ruin humanity.

It's undeniably fun, features larger-than-life effects that were way ahead of its time, and features and at the top of their collective, alien destroying game. If nothing else, it's worth a watch to see Will Smith's Captain Steven Hiller punch an alien in the face.

Note: If you've seen this too many times already, it could be worth checking out this year's belated sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence.

3. Contact (1997)

'Contact' [Credit: Warner Bros.]
'Contact' [Credit: Warner Bros.]

Director: Robert Zemeckis

From one extreme to the other, Contact— based on a novel by cosmologist Carl Sagan — is much more subtle in its execution than Emmerich's in-your-face blockbuster, perhaps making it suitably similar to Arrival's delicacy.

Jody Foster stars in the lead role as Dr. Eleanor "Ellie" Arroway, a scientist who is later chosen to make first contact with extra-terrestrial life. The film is bursting with compassion for other life forms, while also tackling the philosophical grey areas between religion and science.

2. District 9 (2009)

Director: Neill Blomkamp

South African directing sensation Blomkamp exploded onto the scene with District 9. It's a forward-thinking and unique alien invasion story that places a social framework around the question: What would happen if aliens became a part of our society?

The premise centers around District 9, a government camp in Johannesburg that has housed an alien community for almost three decades. Sharlto Copley's charisma in the lead role — memorable for his reference to said aliens as "fooking prawns" —combined with tackling serious themes of xenophobia and social segregation, make it a must watch.

1. Under the Skin (2013)

'Under the Skin' [Credit: A24]
'Under the Skin' [Credit: A24]

Director: Jonathan Glazer

Alien contact films such as Arrival provide a great platform to explore serious issues that can be applied to society. Under the Skin is a great example, using 's enigmatic and lustful extra-terrestrial to tell the story of an alien being on a path of self-discovery.

It's not an easy watch, with a fair share of hard-hitting scenes, and it's a film that'll leave you reflecting days after viewing. However, there aren't many movies that play with our perception of beauty, femininity and racism in such a unique and compelling way.


Will you be watching 'Arrival'?


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