In 1897 H.G Wells wrote a novel that launched science fiction writing style that has endured to this very day. War of the Worlds was born and so was the alien invasion genre.
In 1935 Alex Raymond launched his comic strip Flash Gordon about an all American hero and his battle to fight off the evil forces of Mongo and their Emperor Ming the Merciless.
Throughout the Second World War pilots on both sides described seeing fiery balls of light on night time bombing missions. The 415th Night Fighter Squadron first coined the term Foo Fighter (Where there’s foo there fire) Each side assumed that they were some form of secret weapon designed to distract bomber pilots from their missions. It wasn't until after the war when both sides realized that these foo fighters were something unexplained.
On June 27th 1947 civilian pilot Kenneth Arnold was flying his plane over Washington state looking for a downed aircraft. As he was making a turn a glint of sunlight caught Arnold’s eye. It was then he saw what would later be described as an historic event in the UFO calendar. Arnold spotted nine silver colored objects flying at incredible speed and in perfect formation.When later asked to describe what he saw Arnold stated. They flew like a saucer skipping across water. The press had a field day and the term Flying Saucer was born.
Just over a week after Arnold’s historic sighting, a rancher called Mac Brazel was surveying storm damage on his Ranch just outside the small New Mexico town of Roswell. He came across what can be described as strange debris spread over a wide area. Brazel immediately called the sheriff’s office who in turn contacted the local army air force base. What followed was a defining moment in UFO folklore and an opportunity for documentary, film makers, and authors to produce a steady line of films documentaries and books about little green men, government cover ups and sinister forces hell bent on controlling the human race.
As the cold war kicked into high gear, film makers released a steady stream of flying saucer related movies. The 1950s and 1960s were a golden era for B Movies which played heavily on the flying saucer invasion theme and also drawing on post war America. A time when paranoia gripped the nation and a time when the world stood on the brink of nuclear armageddon.
Films like The Day the Earth Stood Still and Earth Vs the Flying saucers excited a new generation of film makers and film goers alike. They also brought a much needed income for a struggling film industry. Musicals were starting to fall out of favor and the science fiction genre started to take off in a big way.
TV shows like the Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits brought the threat of alien invasion into our living rooms. TV started to take off along with these classic TV shows.
In 1977 fresh from the success of his 1975 blockbuster Jaws, Stephen Spielberg released close Encounters of the Third Kind. All across the world people began to speak up about personal experiences regarding close encounters with mysterious objects and beings from another world.
In 1982 Spielberg triumphed again with ET the Extra-Terrestrial, a tale about an alien left behind on a hostile earth who befriends a young boy called Elliot. ET remains a timeless classic and cemented Spielberg as the master of UFO/alien related films.
Throughout the 90s there were a string of movies which played the alien invasion theme. Men in Black, Mars attacks were run away successes, while fact based films like Fire in the Sky and TV movie Roswell made us think about whether we are alone in the universe. We watched Jodie Foster with wonder who starred in the film adaptation of Carl Sagan’s internationally acclaimed novel Contact.
However there was one TV event and Film event that made people sit up and take notice of the UFO phenomenon. In 1993 virtually unknown TV producer Chris Carter launched a TV phenomena that captivated millions and defined a generation. The X Files followed the exploits of FBI Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully who entertained TV audience week by week, investigating the paranormal and facing off against a sinister government plot to hide the truth about UFOs.
In 1996 Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich produced Independence Day a film which was to hold audiences around the world in suspense for two hours while alien forces laid waste to America’s most beloved landmarks. It also brought to light the mysterious region known as Area 51, home to America's most secret military project. It has been rumored that the American government have been keeping the remains of crashed alien spacecraft at the base, including wreckage from the Roswell crash of 1947.
In 2002 Mel Gibson starred in Signs a thrilling tale about aliens invading rural America. While Independence Day played out on an international stage Signs focused on the impact of alien invasion on an ordinary American family touched by the loss of the mother and a pastor who loses his faith as a result.
In the same year Steven Spielberg brought out Taken a ten part TV drama focusing on the Alien abduction theme spanning over 50 years. While The X Files finally closed its doors to the viewing public.
Not all films and TV series have been about all out invasions there have been many which have explored the possibility that they are living among us planning mankind’s destruction from within. 1960s TV scifi drama The Invaders played this theme beautifully, using the cold war as a platform. In the 1980s a TV event captivated audiences across the globe. V the TV series told the story of human looking aliens who arrived in massive promising unity and peace for mankind while secretly plotting to steal the earth’s fresh water supply and turn humans into their main food supply.
Although the format has changed a little, films such as Avengers Assemble play with the whole alien invasion theme. The alien invasion genre remains very popular with independent film makers and writers continuing to feed us with terrifying tales of a threat that lurks in the skies above.
The Truth is still out there in a new Alien conspiracy book series: The Angel Committee