BySean Gallen, writer at
The pen is mightier than the sword but is ultimately useless in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Filmmaker, filmlover, MP staff writer.
Sean Gallen

Some stories are so good that they require multiple tellings. H.G Wells' War of the Worlds was one of the first and finest examples of science fiction and is so timeless that it demands constant adaptation. The story of a superior alien race invading and colonizing England gripped readers and forced them to think about the future.

MTV have proudly announced that they will be getting their teeth into the epic Alien vs. Humans story with Jeff Davis and Andrew Cochran (producers of Teen Wolf) at the helm. This new spin of the classic story will hit screens Summer 2017 but we have compiled some of the best War of the World adaptations while we wait. You're welcome.

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1. The Original Story: H.G Wells' Sci-Fi Masterpiece

  • Original release: 1898
  • Author: H.G Wells

Alongside Jules Verne, H.G Wells is one of the founding fathers of science fiction. He started exploring themes of technology and speculating about the future in his novel The Time Machine, which asked a lot of important questions about the morality of time travel. He would follow up the ground-breaking work with an even more influential story of a hostile Martian invasion that takes over England.

Illustration from 1906 / Henrique Alvim Corréa
Illustration from 1906 / Henrique Alvim Corréa

The story was released in serial form, meaning each chapter came out weekly in Pearson's magazine. The plot followed a working class family in Surrey who witness the invasion and traces their survival under the harsh Martian occupation. Wells laid the foundation for Alien invasion stories that would influence work for decades to come with his chilling depiction of the merciless extra-terrestrials.

"Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us."

2. The Radio Play That Fooled The World

  • Original release: 1938
  • Directed by: Orson Welles

When Orson Welles met H.G Wells (no relation), the legendary novelist handed his incredible story down to the young visionary to be adapted into a radio play. Welles would direct and take on most of the roles and the initial broadcast went out October 30th 1930. The play featured staged interruptions from radio hosts which made the alien invasion seem so real that the listeners at home reached for their rifles and prepared for Martians at the door.

Orson Welles announcing the end of the world / CBS
Orson Welles announcing the end of the world / CBS

Once the broadcast was finished the CBS switchboards lit up and the studio was surrounded by police who were instructed to stop the drama. In 1938, the world was on the verge of total meltdown in the build up to WWII and the invasion paranoia was rampant. While the original novel was a commentary on the British invading countries all over the world, this new version was playing with the fear and propaganda in pre-war America.

3. The First Cinematic Adaptation

  • Original release: 1953
  • Director: Byron Haskin

Byron Haskin's film adaptation is the one of the finest Sci-Fi films of the '50s and is very similar to Forbidden Planet in style. The old story was dusted off and given a Hollywood makeover with retro-futuristic aliens galore brought to life in glorious technicolor. The Paramount studios epic was released at a time after America had won the war and was the leading super power but Americans were gripped by a new, more terrifying fear. This time the invading devastating aliens represented the USSR and the mutually assured destruction that people expected one day or the next.

4. The '70s Rock Opera

  • Original release: 1977
  • Director: Jeff Wayne

The War of the Worlds story wasn't always a sombre story of alien occupation. In 1977, Jeff Wayne was a successful musician who had made a fortune from writing over 3,000 commercial jingles (Yes, like Charlie in Two and a Half Men). He decided to dedicate his small wealth to adapting his favorite Sci-Fi novel but he would bring it to life in a completely different way. Jeff enlisted the help of Richard Burton, Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy, a sprinkle of Ziggy Stardust and an entire orchestra to turn H.G Wells' epic story into an incredible rock opera.

Check out one of the chapters below:

5. Spielberg's Epic Adaptation

  • Original release: 2005
  • Director: Steven Spielberg

The version of War of the Worlds that is freshest in most of our memories is the amazing Spielberg retelling starring Tom Cruise. His take reaches new heights and tells a much darker version of the story, putting the audience right in the middle of the swirling vortex of destruction. It seems like every generation has an artist who captured the terror of an Earth being subordinated by a superior alien race. Each artist in his time, taps into a real terror whether its the rise of Nazism, the Cold war or Terrorism for Spielberg. That being said, Spielberg's version immersed the viewer in the crowd as the chaos begins swirling like no one else before him.


Which is your favorite adaptation of 'War of the Worlds'?


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