When scientists were learning more about other planets such as Mars and Venus in the 1940’s and 1950’s, the data was tantalizing but not complete enough to know if there were advanced life forms on those planets. This fired the imagination of writers and the general public, and they wondered what would happen if aliens from those planets — or from planets outside our solar system — were hostile instead of friendly. What if they invaded Earth, either in an open display of force or by using more covert means? When the 70’s and 80’s rolled by, we learned that intelligent life in our own solar system was unlikely, but that didn’t stop the public’s hunger for alien invasion plots. The following list is my opinion of the top five alien invasion movies in chronological order. I consider these films to be equally good.

1. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

This film could not have come at a better time. After WW2 ended, the advent of increasingly advanced nuclear weapons created the specter of global armageddon. Klaatu’s anti-violence preaching in the movie drives home that point, and the film may have been a veiled threat aimed at the USSR after they tested their first nuclear weapon in 1949. The superpowered Gort robot may symbolize a U.S. deterrent againt nuclear rogue nations.

2. The War of the Worlds (1953)

H.G. Wells wrote the first credible novel about alien invasion in 1898 called ‘The War of The Worlds,’ which this film is based on. While the visual tricks that Hollywood had back then were minimal, it won an Oscar for special effects. The script moves the setting from London to Southern California, which is the only gripe I have about this excellent movie.

3. The Thing (1982)

The 1979 ‘Alien’ film initiated a modern genesis of movies that depicted biological assaults on humans from another humanoid species. It doesn’t qualify as an alien invasion for my criteria since the aliens never land on Earth. Following that movie, ‘The Thing’ was released — a chilling depiction of alien life on Earth that can mimic human biology.

4. Predator (1987)

One of Schwarzenegger’s best movies, ‘Predator’ notches the alien suspense up a notch using brilliant visual effects to describe a creature that uses camo to hunt its prey. The epic final battle was the first realistic-looking “individual man vs. individual alien” fight depicted on film where a feeling is achieved that these are two warriors who ultimately respect each other for their fighting talents.

5. Independence Day (1996)

While there are flaws that exist in ‘Independence Day,’ nobody can deny that it is an exciting film and the first to show a realistic-looking alien invasion of Earth on a massive scale. One of the best scenes in the film is when the “hippies” get up on the roof of a tall building to welcome the alien visitors, and are quite rudely greeted by their new alien overlords. Too many sci-fi fans assume that visiting aliens will be friendly (blame ‘Star Trek’). While this could be the case, notable figures such as the physicist Stephen Hawking caution us not to make hasty assumptions.