There’s a Monster Outside my Room. Can I Have a Glass of Water? (Andy)
Signs (2002): Before M. Night Shyamalan started pushing out cinematic turds and prior to Mel Gibson going anti-Semitic and Joaquin Phoenix growing a Grizzly Adams beard and becoming a rapper, the trio made a film that is equal parts spiritual, scary and sci-fi. And best of all, Shyamalan, until the absurd ending, did it all with subtle terrors and bubbling tension. I don’t think aliens are scary, but the way Signs is told, you really start to believe this could happen. It’s an alien invasion story told from the vantage point of one small family.
Klaatu Barada Nikto (Dan)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951): Forget the Keanu Reeves eco-gospel revamp that bored you into submission last year, the original was an allegorical tale that remains poignant, maybe even more so, today. When a UFO lands at President’s Park in Washington D.C., the world fears the worst and when a spaceman appears, he’s shot and put under arrest. Naturally, the dude only wanted to tell earth that our violent tendencies have other space-faring worlds so worried they’ll kill us all if we keep it up. Focused more on socio-political ideas and the nature of humanity than special effects and action, The Day the Earth Stood Still is an aliens-visit-earth movie that, 58 years later, still carries a message we can all stand to hear.
This…Means Something (Andy)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977): Steven Spielberg’s tale of alien vistors, like his previous film Jaws, is an all-time classic. Spielberg shows his mastery of capturing the heart of the American family with Roy Neary’s (Richard Dreyfus) homelife, and the scene where Barry is abducted by aliens is genuinely terrifying. If you haven’t seen this movie, above anything else, you know the theme song.
In Addition to the Water… There is Another Basic Shortage on our Planet… (Dan)
V (1983): Sure it was made for TV, but that hasn’t stopped us before. V (and its 1984 sequel V: The Final Battle) has repercolated into social consciousness thanks to the modern reboot airing now on ABC. Revisiting the original min-series is a treat. Sure, the hairdos and the music are a little (a lot) dated, but the idea of celestial wolves in sheeps clothing occupying earth while soothing us into letting them still holds some pretty interesting themes (capitulation, race relations and teenage pregnancy to name a few) and skin-peeling effects. If you don’t catch them re-running on SyFy, make sure you throw them into your NetFlix cue or rent them from your local Hollybusterstings.
Is it the Terrorists?! (Andy)
War of the Worlds (2005): I know, another Steven Spielberg alien movie, this time a remake for heaven’s sakes! I love this film for the same reasons I love Close Encounters of the Third Kind – the family dynamic seems spot-on, the fictional alien terror is a superb setting to draw real-world parallels about how human beings act during a crisis, and, again, Spielberg is the master of keeping our hands locked in white knuckle fashion to our theater chairs. Furthermore, I know it’s cool to hate Tom Cruise these days, but I think he’s a pretty good actor and he proves it in this fantastic remake.
I Work For a Project Called SETI (Dan)
Contact (1997): Once upon a time, Robert Zermeckis directed live-action films. It’s true! Contact was one of his last before he hitched his skill to the mocap train and it’s one that, when approached as a theological study instead instead of a wham-bam alien encounter flick, has a lot to offer. Contact is paced, deliberate and thoughtful exploration of the dueling God vs. Science debate with aliens and sci-fi as CGI-enhanced window dressing.