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From Reel to Real: The 5 Best Alien Films of All-Time

Ever felt like we’re living in a science fiction film? If that question has been racing through your mind lately, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

With the recent US Congress hearing on UFOs and whistleblower David Grusch’s claims of government cover-ups and non-human ‘biologics’, life is starting to resemble the opening act of a Spielbergian blockbuster.

Rightfully, this real-world drama has ignited a resurgence in all things extraterrestrial.

And what better way to ponder these stunning developments than by revisiting some of the most iconic UFO films of all time?

Below, you will find a list of five stellar sci-fi flicks, all of which are perfectly aligned with today’s alarmingly alien-centric headlines.

Let’s dive in!

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Arrival (2016)

Directed by Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, this sci-fi film follows a linguist recruited by the military to communicate with aliens who have landed on Earth.

Widely dubbed one of the best sci-fi films of the past decade, this pensive and atmospheric film is praised for its more grounded and realistic portrayal of alien encounters.

If there’s one movie on this list that encapsulates the current zeitgeist, this is it.

Fun fact:

The alien language depicted in the film was created by Jessica Coon, a renowned linguist who was hired by Villeneuve to develop a highly plausible language for the film’s aliens. Coon based the language on real-world linguistic principles, and ended up publishing a paper on the language in a leading scientific journal.

ARRIVAL – Official Trailer

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Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

This list would be incomplete without the inclusion of Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi classic, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The film follows Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss), a blue-collar worker in Indiana who becomes obsessed with contacting aliens following an encounter with a UFO.

Grappling with themes of obsession and the unknown, Spielberg’s first sci-fi film paved the way for the genre. It not only revolutionized sci-fi storytelling but broke new ground visually, elevating industry standards for special effects.

Close Encounters Of The Third Kind – Official® Trailer [HD]

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District 9 (2009)

Directed by Neill Blomkamp, this sci-fi film depicts an alien race referred to as “Prawns” who are forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth.

This is undoubtedly one of the most unique sci-fi offerings on this list. And that’s thanks to Blomkamp’s documentary-style narrative, which he implements to explore themes of xenophobia and discrimination. Unlike other films in the genre, his portrayal of aliens and how they co-exist on Earth has a raw and hyper-realistic edge.

Fun fact:

Originally, District 9 was conceived as a short film titled “Alive in Joburg” by Neill Blomkamp, which gained significant attention online. This allowed Blomkamp to expand the concept into a full-length feature film

Lesson learned? Keep pitching your indie projects!

District 9 – Official Trailer (HD)

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The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

This sci-fi masterpiece follows the story of “Klaatu,” an alien who lands in Washington D.C. to deliver a stern warning to the people of Earth: be at peace with one another or face destruction.

A true post-war classic, the movie expertly delves into themes of humanity, war, and the consequences of violence. What sets it apart? It was one of the genre’s first films to depict peaceful aliens.

Fun fact:

“The Day the Earth Stood Still” was the first feature film to depict UFOs as “flying saucers,” an image so iconic that it has since become a pop culture staple.

Day the Earth Stood Still – Official Trailer

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Asteroid City (2023)

Undeniably the cutest film on this list, Wes Anderson’s latest feature follows a group of Junior Stargazers/Space Cadets whose annual convention is disrupted by visitations from an alien spacecraft. 

Yes, Anderson’s penchant for meticulously crafted sets, perfect symmetry, pastel palettes, and thematic storytelling returns in this retro-futuristic flick. But this movie stands out in his oeuvre for both its emotional resonance and uniquely multilayered narrative. 

Fun fact: 

“Asteroid City” is Wes Anderson’s first-ever sci-fi film!

Asteroid City – Official Trailer – In Select Theaters June 16, Everywhere June 23

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Conclusion

All in all, the titles included in this list are more than just crowd-pleasing blockbusters. 

Whether it’s the grounded depiction of extrastriatal encounters in “Arrival” or the jarring realism of “District 9,” each of these films has gained new resonance amidst the sudden – and highly surreal – global discourse surrounding UFOs

So, happy watching! And remember, keep one eye on the sky. Who knows where the next plot twist might come from…?

Oh and before you go!

If you found this article useful, you should consider signing up for Toronto Film School’s industry-focused newsletter Insider Advantage. Packed with exclusive content and useful industry insights, Insider Advantage is essential reading for anyone looking to make their mark in the world of film and television.

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Niko Pajkovic
Niko Pajkovic is a marketing copywriter at the Toronto Film School. He’s also an academically published author whose research focuses on algorithms, AI, and their intersection with film and television. Niko holds an MA in Professional Communication from Toronto Metropolitan University and a Hon. BA in Communication Studies from Wilfrid Laurier University. His freelance bylines include Film Threat, Independent Australia, Film Matters Magazine, and Film Cred.

Niko Pajkovic

Niko Pajkovic is a marketing copywriter at the Toronto Film School. He’s also an academically published author whose research focuses on algorithms, AI, and their intersection with film and television. Niko holds an MA in Professional Communication from Toronto Metropolitan University and a Hon. BA in Communication Studies from Wilfrid Laurier University. His freelance bylines include Film Threat, Independent Australia, Film Matters Magazine, and Film Cred.

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