Now, there are tons of movies dealing with alien invasions and the horrors of dealing with one face-to-face might entail. There are, however, only a handful of films that deal with the concept of first contact — the human race as a whole dealing with the reality of intelligent life from another world reaching our planet. Peace is not required, but is probably preferred by all humans involved. As #Arrival is gathering stand-out reviews for its portrayal of first contact, here's a look at five other movies that established first contact in their own unique ways.
5. Independence Day
While this may not be the most thinking-heavy entry, it makes its mark for several unique reasons. The first third of this '90s action film deals solely with discovering what the aliens want, with message deciphering and constant interpretations that turn human forces on their heads as they try to understand. The most interesting points, however, come with the social, civilian reactions to the aliens' arrival. While some run for the hills immediately, others hold welcome parties on skyscrapers (I still shake my head at that one). #IndependenceDay also has an interesting pan-over of how different foreign cultures are reacting. The film presents the alien arrival as equal parts interesting and terrifying, with an attempt to speak to the aliens one-on-one that doesn't exactly go well.
4. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
With such a wide-spanning career in sci-fi, it was going to be pretty hard not to mention #StevenSpielberg. After #Jaws, Spielberg crafted this classic with the tale of Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) as he quests for the truth after seeing a UFO and becomes obsessed with extra-terrestrials. Mix in government incarceration and deception, mashed potatoes and a musical ending interesting enough to warrant a cameo by French director François Truffaut and you have an considerably unique cocktail from a director known to go above and beyond.
Having Robert Zemeckis direct an adaptation of a Carl Sagan novel is already a great recipe for success before adding Jodie Foster to a stellar cast. Notable for being one of the few films of its nature to use more real science than pseudoscience, it was a breath of fresh air. Mixed with some stellar cinematography, an enthralling adventure and one of the most hopeful communications with aliens possible, going so far as to accommodate us with familiar faces and surroundings. #Contact seems to have missed the classic treatment over the years, but its unique qualities have assured it enough good word of mouth to have new fans for years to come.
2. The Man Who Fell To Earth
There may never have been a more appropriate actor to play an alien than David Bowie. The man (sorry, the legend) never quite seemed human in his limitless skill and appearance. The film follows Bowie as an undercover alien who comes to Earth looking for water for his planet, and becomes a very successful entrepreneur thanks to his advanced technology. The film has a unique take on an alien adapting to Earthly vices such as alcohol and television addiction, as well as the unnerving way it looks and feels. Thanks to direction from Nicolas Roeg (Don't Look Now) and Bowie's look coming off his peak drug-phase, this is a film that has endured thanks to cult followings for decades. Its popularity even earned the film a restoration this year.
1. The Day The Earth Stood Still
It's impossible to talk about first contact movies without mentioning this '50s classic. Sparing no time, the movie opens on the arrival of the aliens, quickly spreading a message of peace, however unsure the human race may be. The movie is notable for its commentary on human politics and war as a whole, with the ultimate message being that the human race is too violent for its own good. This film is ambivalent and dark in terms of its look at first contact, having the human race play the villain in its own story and showing that the aliens only pose a threat should Earth decide to continue its violent ways into its space age.
For those who can't wait any longer to talk to our friends from beyond, Arrival is in theaters now.
Which of these first contact movies do you think best illustrate alien invasion?