ByS.C. O'Donnell, writer at
"Zombies, exploding heads...creepy-crawlies and a date for the formal - This is classic, Spanky." Wah-hoo-wah! Twitter: @Scodonnell1
S.C. O'Donnell

Mankind has always been fascinated with the idea of life on other planets. More over, mankind has had a deep-seated love affair with aliens on film. Just about every type of alien the human mind could imagine has been represented on screen, from the heartwarming E.T. to the murderous Xenomorphs in Alien. With so many films featuring aliens, it's hard to decide which ones you should watch. Well, have no fear, because we've go you covered.

Watch the trailer for an upcoming film - that is sure to be chocked full of aliens, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2:

Here at Movie Pilot, we have compiled a list of films that feature extraterrestrials in one form or another. The aliens in these films do not have to be main characters, however, they must be somewhat prominent. We then took these films and narrowed them down, until we were left with 25. Those films are then ranked in accordance with their Rotten Tomatoes audience score, as we felt this was a better barometer of the films, rather than the critics' score. For the sake of diversity, films in franchises have been lumped together, and will be judged off the highest rated film (that means out of the 13 Star Trek films, the highest ranking one would appear on the list). So, without further ado, let's get this countdown rolling!

See also:

1. 'Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back'

  • Year of Release: 1980
  • Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
  • Directed By: Irvin Kershner
  • Rotten Tomato Audience Score: 97%

There is no surprise here, with a whopping 97 percent audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes — the highest of all the Star Wars films — The Empire Strikes Back stands alone at the top. This film is a bonafide classic that has become the gold standard of what a sequel should be.

Empire Strikes Back brought us so many wonderful moments that have lived on for decades. It has one of the most iconic twist endings, and it introduced the world to Yoda and Boba Fett (the Star Wars Holiday Special doesn't count). On top of that, it provides thrilling action, and some terrific special effects that were ahead of the times. This movie continues to be one of the best films ever made.

2. 'Aliens'

Aliens [Credit: 20th Century Fox]
Aliens [Credit: 20th Century Fox]
  • Year of Release: 1986
  • Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Carrie Henn
  • Director: James Cameron
  • Rotten Tomato Audience Score: 94%

When most people think of movies with aliens in them, of course they think of . The adventures of Ripley, and her battles with the acid-blooded Xenomorphs, have gone down as classics in film history (not counting Aliens 3). When it comes to sequels, Aliens breathes rarefied air by out shining the original.

James Cameron out did himself, adding to the lore of Alien while taking the franchise in a whole new direction. Navigating away from Ridley Scott's tone in the first film, James Cameron made a straight up action movie that still holds up to this day.

3. 'Marvel's: Guardians Of The Galaxy'

Guardians Of The Galaxy [Credit: Marvel Studios]
Guardians Of The Galaxy [Credit: Marvel Studios]
  • Year of Release: 2014
  • Starring: Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper
  • Director: James Gunn
  • Rotten Tomato Audience Score: 92%

Director James Gunn brought these colorful characters to life — from a little known comic book — and told a story that had everything you could want in a sci-fi film. At it's heart, Guardians of the Galaxy is the tale of a lovable rag-tag group of misfits who are all that stands between the universe and utter devastation — oh, and one of them is a talking raccoon! This property has quickly become one of the most beloved Marvel movies, and for good reason: The film combined stunning visuals, hilarious dialogue, and unforgettable music, that resulted in something truly unique.

4. 'The Thing'

The Thing [Credit:  Universal Pictures]
The Thing [Credit: Universal Pictures]
  • Year of Release: 1982
  • Starring: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David |
  • Director: John Carpenter
  • Rotten Tomato Audience Score: 92%

Personally, I'm on board for any Kurt Russell vehicle — doubly so if it's directed by John Carpenter. The Thing accomplishes what many horror movies fail to: It builds suspense, relying on great storytelling that has the audience on the edge of their seats. This film is also beautifully shot, and the visual effects still look great even by today's standards. Oh, did I mention there is a terrifying shape-shifting alien as well? This is a must-see for both horror buffs and science fiction fans alike.

5. 'Star Trek'

  • Year of Release: 2009
  • Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg
  • Director: J.J. Abrams
  • Rotten Tomato Audience Score: 91%

There have been 13 major motion pictures that spawned from Gene Roddenberry's classic television program Star Trek. Though you may be shocked, J.J. Abrams's reboot stands victorious over all the others, and for very good reason: This film did the impossible, it introduced beloved characters to a new generation, and still maintained the spirit of the films that came before it. The film's use of time-travel is unique and allowed the new film series to honor it's predecessors while forging a path into the final frontier. Live long and prosper!

6. 'Edge Of Tomorrow'

Edge of Tomorrow [Credit: Warner Bros.]
Edge of Tomorrow [Credit: Warner Bros.]
  • Year of Release: 2014
  • Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton
  • Director: Doug Liman
  • Rotten Tomato Audience Score: 90%

Edge of Tomorrow shocked audiences when it premiered in theaters. No one expected this movie to be any good — mostly due to poor advertising. The reality was quite the opposite, audiences everywhere praised the movie, even if they couldn't remember which title the studio finally settled on. Tom Cruise gives a stellar performance in this science fiction tale that combines time-looping aliens, Emily Blunt being a badass, and Bill Paxton at his finest. To put it simply, this film is equal parts War of the Worlds and the comedy classic, Groundhog Day. Live. Die. Repeat.

7. 'The Day The Earth Stood Still'

The Day The Earth Stood Still [Credit: 20th Century Fox]
The Day The Earth Stood Still [Credit: 20th Century Fox]
  • Year of Release: 1951
  • Starring: Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe
  • Director: Robert Wise
  • Rotten Tomato Audience Score: 87%

The Day The Earth Stood Still is still regarded as one of the finest pieces of science fiction ever adapted to film. When a saucer lands on Earth, a humanoid alien named Klaatu emerges and is met with gunfire. As the plot unfolds, the film explores mankind's destructive nature, and how we tend to let fear guide our actions. This film is definitely a must-see for both science fiction fans and those who appreciate the classics.

8. 'Predator'

Predator [Credit: Amercent Films]
Predator [Credit: Amercent Films]
  • Year of Release: 1987
  • Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Kevin Peter Hall
  • Director: John McTiernan
  • Rotten Tomato Audience Score: 87%

John McTiernan directed this '80s action classic that pits a team of commandos against an alien warrior in a South American jungle. Arnold Schwarzenegger leads the pack as they begin to get picked off by an enemy that is almost invisible. As the movie unfolds, the characters must discover how to defeat an enemy that utilizes technology vastly superior to their own. This is a tale of ingenuity in the face of tremendous odds. This film is also filled with one-liners that are as memorable as the Predator itself.

9. 'The Fifth Element'

The Fifth Element [Credit: Gaumont]
The Fifth Element [Credit: Gaumont]
  • Year of Release: 1997
  • Starring: Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, Gary Oldman
  • Director: Luc Besson
  • Rotten Tomato Audience Score: 87%

The Fifth Element centers around Leeloo (Milla Jovovich), who is humanity's last hope against the scourge of evil that threatens the universe. When you break this film down, it is truly a race against the clock. Bruce Willis is at his finest as his character Korben Dallas fights to keep Leeloo safe, thus securing a future for mankind. This film has notable performances from Gary Oldman (Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg) and Chris Tucker (Ruby Rhod), in this colorful tale that spans the galaxy. Although this film is very campy and colorful, it still is a great piece of science fiction that still holds up after almost 20 years.

10. 'Superman'

  • Year of Release: 1978
  • Starring: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman
  • Director: Richard Donner
  • Rotten Tomato Audience Score: 86%

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Superman! This classic film was a dream come true for nerds everywhere. Christopher Reeve brought Kal-El to life on the big screen for the first time, and he is still considered the gold standard Superman. This film is the time-honored tale of Superman as he must navigate a duel identity and save the world from the maniacal supervillain Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman). Still to this day, the film is considered one of the best superhero films of all time, and it brought Christopher Reeve into the public consciousness. You too will believe a man can fly.

11. 'Transformers'

Transformers [Credit: Paramount]
Transformers [Credit: Paramount]
  • Year of Release: 2007
  • Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel
  • Director: Michael Bay
  • Rotten Tomato Audience Score: 86%

It might come as a surprise that the audience score on Rotten Tomatoes is so high for this film, but if you think about it, it is the pinnacle of what a summer blockbuster should be. Transformers follows the story of Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), who has a pair of antique glasses that the evil robo-alien Megatron needs to get the transforming cube or something — OK to be honest, this plot makes no sense. However, Michael Bay combined the classic Hasbro toy line with his patented style to create a true spectacle. It is true that the "plot" leaves something to be desired, but when you have giant alien robots that can turn into cars, you don't really need much more.

12. 'Close Encounters Of The Third Kind'

Close Encounters of the Third Kind [Credit: Columbia Pictures Corporation]
Close Encounters of the Third Kind [Credit: Columbia Pictures Corporation]
  • Year of Release: 1977
  • Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, François Truffaut, Teri Garr
  • Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Rotten Tomato Audience Score: 85%

Close Encounters of the Third Kind follows our hero Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss), who begins a frantic quest to contact an alien race after spotting a bonafide UFO in the sky. What follows is an adventure of epic proportion that explores the depths of human curiosity. This film captured the imagination of a generation, and proved that aliens don't always come to conquer Earth — which was a bold choice in the '70s. Steven Spielberg crafted a wonderful tale that has thoroughly been absorbed into popular culture.

13. 'Invasion Of The Body Snatchers'

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers [Credit: Walter Wanger Productions]
Invasion Of The Body Snatchers [Credit: Walter Wanger Productions]
  • Year of Release: 1956
  • Starring: Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Larry Gates
  • Director: Don Siegel
  • Rotten Tomato Audience Score: 85%

Although it has been remade several times, we hearken back to the original 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers, as the best version of the film. The film revolves around an alien race who silently begin to take over the world and rid the human race of emotion. The film is a high-stakes thriller in which you don't know who to trust, and any moment could be your last.

P.S. Don't watch the 2007 remake Invasion, starring Nicole Kidman, because it is truly awful.

14. 'Dark City'

  • Year of Release: 1998
  • Starring: Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly
  • Director: Alex Proyas
  • Rotten Tomato Audience Score: 84%

Poor, poor Mr. Quick. When a man wakes up with no recollection of who he is, he must begin a quest that will lead to one of the most shocking discoveries ever. There is not much more to say about the plot without spoiling it, however, it is a cerebral film that reflects upon the unique nature of humanity, which some of us tend to take for granted. Make sure you see this movie if you have not already!

15. 'The Abyss'

The Abyss [Credit:  Twentieth Century Fox]
The Abyss [Credit: Twentieth Century Fox]
  • Year of Release: 1989
  • Starring: Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Michael Biehn
  • Director: James Cameron
  • Rotten Tomato Audience Score: 83%

James Cameron's skills are on full display with this visually stunning late '80s film. It follows a crew of explorers who are investigating the unexplored depths of the oceans. Strange things begin to happen, which leads the crew to the greatest discovery of all time. The Abyss takes a standard tale of extraterrestrial discovery and turns it on its head. The film posits the theory that aliens are not out in space, but have been on Earth with us for quite some time.

16. 'Arrival'

  • Year of Release: 2016
  • Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
  • Director: Denis Villeneuve
  • Rotten Tomato Audience Score: 83%

Arrival is the most recent film on this list, but is well deserving of its place. This cerebral film combines elements of alien movies that have come before it, but repackages them in a way that is wholly satisfying. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is a linguist who was called upon to help communicate with aliens after ships land all over the world. Denis Villeneuve implements a unique form of storytelling that builds to a wonderful crescendo. Arrival challenges the way we look at language, and how mankind's fear could very well be are undoing.

17. 'Avatar'

Avatar [Credit:  Twentieth Century Fox]
Avatar [Credit: Twentieth Century Fox]
  • Year of Release: 2009
  • Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver
  • Director: James Cameron
  • Rotten Tomato Audience Score: 82%

The story follows Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic who is dispatched to the planet Pandora. through the use of technology, Sully is able to inhabit an "avatar" and interact with the indigenous population (the Na'vi). He is tasked with convincing the Na'vi to evacuate their land so that the humans can mine a unique mineral on the planet, but as he gets to know the culture, his loyalty to the humans begins to wane.

Avatar was a gigantic success when it was released in December of 2009. It is still one of the highest grossing films of all time, and it was the first film to utilize 3D technology in a way that captivated audiences. In recent years it has been strictly scrutinized as being Dances With Wolves in space. The two films are similar, as they both deal with outside forces disrupting the people, and disturbing nature of an indigenous people.

18. 'District 9'

  • Year of Release: 2009
  • Starring: Sharlto Copley, David James, Jason Cope
  • Director: Neill Blomkamp
  • Rotten Tomato Audience Score: 82%

District 9 explores the dark side of humanity, and draws parallels to South Africa during apartheid. The film begins 28 years after the aliens made first contact, but instead of being welcomed by humanity, the aliens are treated as refugees as politicians decide what to do with the unwanted guests — while trying to profit off the alien technology. District 9 quickly became a sci-fi classic, and was a rare occurrence in an alien film where mankind takes the role of the villain.

19. 'Men In Black'

  • Year of Release: 1997
  • Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino
  • Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
  • Rotten Tomato Audience Score: 79%

Men in Black follows a Agent Jay (Will Smith) and Agent Kay (Tommy Lee Jones), who are operatives for a secret organization that observes and controls the presence of aliens on Earth. This film was a sure-fire hit at the box office, combining great action scenes, witty dialogue, and a blend realism that grounds this otherwise insane premise. It is a definite must-watch and showcases Will Smith at the height of his star power.

20. 'They Live'

  • Year of Release: 1988
  • Starring: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster
  • Director: John Carpenter
  • Rotten Tomato Audience Score: 79%

John Carpenter directed this take on a "Snobs vs. Slobs" troupe, which sees a group of aliens inhabiting the bodies of the wealthy in order to make the population of Earth subjects. Popular wrestler "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, is thrust into the spotlight as the leading man, and the only person who can stop the preppy aliens from dominating all of humanity. This film has become a cult classic and also gave birth to the popular quote, "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass — and I'm all out of bubblegum."

21. 'Galaxy Quest'

  • Year of Release: 1999
  • Starring: Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman
  • Director: Dean Parisot
  • Rotten Tomato Audience Score: 78%

When the stars of the popular sci-fi show Galaxy Quest are abducted by aliens — who think the show is a real — the crew must stop being actors and become real-life heroes. This Tim Allen vehicle, pokes fun at the popular science fiction television show Star Trek, and though the film is satirical in nature, it ends up being a fun film that takes a look at the fragility of an individual's ego and the human condition. Though silly at times, Galaxy Quest is a high-concept film that only gets better with age. Never give up! Never Surrender!

22. 'Independence Day'

  • Year of Release: 1996
  • Starring: Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum
  • Director: Roland Emmerich
  • Rotten Tomato Audience Score: 75%

Independence Day has burned itself into the collective consciousness of a generation, so much so that President Thomas J. Whitmore's (Bill Pullman) iconic speech is better known than the Gettysburg Address — but for real, it's an awesome fucking speech. The film puts us a world in which aliens with far better technology come to wipe humanity off the face of the Earth, but in the end we defeat them with '90s technology, which is oddly compatible with alien technology. What the film lacks in plot it makes up for in campiness and charm — also another dynamite Will Smith performance.

23. 'Super 8'

  • Year of Release: 2011
  • Starring: Elle Fanning, AJ Michalka, Kyle Chandler
  • Director: J.J. Abrams
  • Rotten Tomato Audience Score: 75%

Super 8 is best described as J.J. Abrams's homage to Steven Spielberg's classic, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. The film follows a group of kids, who discover an alien being and set out on an adventure to get him home. It is a nostalgia-driven blockbuster that doesn't rely on a recognizable IP, and is more heart than spectacle. Although it didn't quite resonate with audiences — as much as some of the other films on this list — it still has earned its spot by being a quality, family-friendly film.

24. 'Attack The Block'

  • Year of Release: 2011
  • Starring: John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail
  • Director: Joe Cornish
  • Rotten Tomato Audience Score: 74%

Attack the Block might just be the most surprising film on this list, but it's well deserving of its place. The film follows a group of inner-city kids in South London who find themselves in the middle of an alien invasion. Against all odds, these kids must defend their home as they wage a war against a hostile threat. This film is an absolute delight, and can be best described as Red Dawn with aliens.

P.S. for nerds — The film stars John Boyega, who played Finn in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. It also showcases the talent of Franz Drameh, who is one-half of Firestorm in the Arrowverse.

25. 'E.T. The Extra Terrestrial'

  • Year of Release: 1982
  • Starring: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote
  • Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Rotten Tomato Audience Score: 72%

Our last film on the list is ironically the first film you might think of as the quintessential alien film. E.T. the Extra Terrestrial will go down in history as one of the most iconic films. The film bolsters the popular quote, "E.T. phone home," and also convinced an entire generation that aliens are obsessed with Reese's Pieces. It is a film about being lost and realizing we are all more alike than we are different. It is a really beautiful film, even if it hasn't aged so well over the years.

Final Thoughts

There you have it folks, the top 25 alien movies in existence! There are a lot of great films on this list, and some definite surprises when it came to the audience's score on Rotten Tomatoes. This is definitely a diverse list that spans many genres of film, from horror to heartwarming family films. Unfortunately, there were great films that don't quite make the cut, but if we left our your favorite film, leave a comment below letting us know! If this list has proved anything, it's that as long as Hollywood studios keep pumping out alien films, we'll keep watching them.

Sound off! What did you think of our list? Let your voice be heard in the comments section below!


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