The Top 10 Alien Characters of the Big Screen

Today marks the release of “Men in Black III,” the sci-fi action comedy sequel that sees Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones returning as alien-hunting Agents J and K for the second time. Also, in two weeks, we will be treated with Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus,” the highly anticipated prequel to his 1979 sci-fi horror masterpiece “Alien.” To celebrate, I’m taking a look at the ten greatest alien characters ever to feature on the big-screen, be they vicious monsters, quirky visitors or conquering invaders. Whatever they may be and whatever their intentions, they’ve all got one thing in common: they’re outta this world.

10. The Coneheads, “Coneheads” (1993)

Home Planet: Remulak
Come in Peace? Yes
Alien Awesomeness: Making their screen debut in a “Saturday Night Live” sketch aired in 1977, the Coneheads are an alien family who come to Earth wishing to achieve the American Dream. A middle-class family of three, they consist of father Beldar (played by Dan Aykroyd), mother Prymaat (Jane Curtin) and teenage daughter Connie (Michelle Burke). And with their nasally voices, bizarre eating habits (pencil shavings and toilet paper are quite tasty, apparently) and pointy-tipped craniums, the Coneheads certainly stand out from a crowd, not that anyone else notices too much.

9. Klaatu, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951)

Home Planet: Unknown
Comes in Peace? Sort of
Alien Awesomeness: Acting as an ambassador from an extraterrestrial confederation, Klaatu arrives on Earth in a flying saucer to deliver a message: end your violence, or we’ll end you. Performed charmingly by Michael Rennie (take notes, Keanu Reeves), Klaatu is humanoid, speaks with an English accent, and wishes only for peace on Earth, although he will obliterate our entire planet if his hand is pushed. He also has a mute robot companion named Gort, whose bulky, metallic structure and watchful presence makes for quiet, unsettling intimidation.

8. The Martians, “Mars Attacks!” (1996)

Home Planet: Mars
Come in Peace? No
Alien Awesomeness: “Ack! Ack ack ack!” Need I say more? In Tim Burton’s gleefully demented pastiche of ‘50s alien invasion movies, the villainous Martians are very much the stars of the show, skillfully stealing whole scenes from the likes of Danny DeVito and Jack Nicholson. Portrayed mostly through CGI, the diminutive Martians are devilishly mischievous, big-headed bullies clad in skin-tight spacesuits who come to Earth for the sole purpose of demolishing our buildings, graffitiing our landmarks and generally creating unruly, senseless carnage. Oh, and their only weakness? The yodelling of Slim Whitman. Ack!

7. The Prawns, “District 9” (2009)

Home Planet: Unknown
Come in Peace? Yes
Alien Awesomeness: So called for their physical resemblance to the decapod crustaceans, the Prawns aren’t exactly the most sightly of creatures, but what they are is rather cool. In 1982, a gigantic spacecraft stops and hovers above the South African city of Johannesburg. Inside the craft are the Prawns, who are promptly relocated to a series of slums, where they are feared by the locals and oppressed by the government. Terrifically animated by way of CGI, the Prawns are a ceaselessly intriguing species, capable of limb-tearing violence, heart-wrenching emotion and technological wizardry – they also have an irresistible craving for tinned cat food.

6. The Na’vi, “Avatar” (2009)

Home Planet: Pandora (moon)
Come in Peace? Kinda
Alien Awesomeness: “Smurf on a stick” was what the Na’vi were commonly referred to upon release of James Cameron’s sci-fi epic “Avatar.” “Smurf,” because of the Na’vi’s sky-tinted complexion, and “on a stick” because of the way they protruded out of the screen due to the film’s famous use of 3D. Smurfs on sticks or not, the Na’vi are a fascinating species, characterised as tree-dwelling natives dedicated to the protection of their land and living in fierce scorn of the invading human army trying to take it from them. Damn us selfish humans! Oh, and apparently they can use their ponytails to have sex with each other. Alien sex is weird, dude.

5. Predator, “Predator” (1987)

Home Planet: Unknown
Comes in Peace? No
Alien Awesomeness: The Predators are keen sportsmen, but their sport isn’t football or tennis or snowboarding: it’s hunting. And in the “Predator” series, they’re not hunting foxes or rabbits: they’re hunting us. In John McTiernan’s original sci-fi actioner, there is only one Predator, and he’s paying a visit to the jungles of Central America, where he faces an elite special forces team. He can shoot lasers, skin his victims, set off nuclear bombs and even turn invisible. But none of those are much of a match for macho man Arnold Schwarzenegger, who bravely comments right to its hideous face that the alien menace is “one ugly motherf***er.” Go Arnie!

4. Superman, “Superman” (1987)

Home Planet: Krypton
Comes in Peace? Yes
Alien Awesomeness: Superman is commonly regarded as one of the greatest superheroes to ever grace the pages of a comic book and to be projected onto the silver screen, and rightfully so: he represents justice, bravery and the quest for peace. Sent to Earth from his crumbling planet of Krypton as an infant, he grows up to become the Man of Steel, an all-American hero and part-time journalist, fearlessly and selflessly battling the forces of evil when not reporting on stuff. Christopher Reeve commandingly played the super-powered being in Richard Donner’s original film and its three subsequent sequels, the last two of which society has smartly chosen to ignore and forget.

3. The Thing, “The Thing” (1982)

Home Planet: Unknown
Comes in Peace? No
Alien Awesomeness: The Thing is a truly terrifying creation. Originally appearing on-screen in Christian Nyby’s 1951 science-fiction horror “The Thing from Another World,” the creature didn’t really get very scary until John Carpenter brilliantly remade Nyby’s film in 1982. The result was a sometimes shapeless, often undetectable but always mysterious movie monster capable of assimilating its victims and sneakily transforming into them, effectively stealing their identity. The alien creature proves particularly troubling for a group of researchers in Antarctica, who stumble upon the murderous life form and spend the rest of the film’s nail-biting runtime terrified that the creature might be one of them. Or is it you?

2. The Xenomorph, “Alien” (1979)

Home Planet: Unknown
Comes in Peace? No
Alien Awesomeness: If first impressions are everything, then one can understand why the Xenomorph got such a hard time from the crew of the Nostromo spacecraft. We first encounter the Xenomorph in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror masterpiece as it violently bursts out from the throbbing chest of a spasmodic John Hurt during dinner. Over the course of the film, the rest of the crew are slowly but surely offed one-by-one (sans franchise heroine Ripley) by the fully-grown alien parasite, which is fixed with two snapping sets of fangs, acid for blood and an unprecedented knack for bloody murder. Truly, the Xenomorph is the ultimate killing machine, and if you were to ever have the misfortune of encountering one, it’s game over, man! Game over!

1. E.T., “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” (1982)

Home Planet: Unknown
Comes in Peace? Yes
Alien Awesomeness: Who doesn’t love E.T.? The pudgy little alien, with his adorable wrinkles, big blue bug eyes and weird finger-torch thingy, is so sweet and cuddly that to not fall in love with him is to not have a soul. In Steven Spielberg’s science-fiction classic, E.T. is mistakenly left behind on Earth by his alien companions. He is soon taken in by 10-year-old Elliott and his two siblings, who attempt to get him back to his home planet, much as the American government tries to intervene. Both the film and the character have become beloved icons of sci-fi cinema, with E.T. warming the hearts of millions worldwide as a hopelessly lost alien just trying to phone home. D’aww.

By Stephen Watson

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