About a year ago, I first made a list chronicling my favorite cinematic extra-terrestrials. It wasn't a very in-depth post - I basically just put pictures of my favorite movie aliens in a list, and that was that. Ever since, I've been wanting to revamp the post a little bit, and seeing as I've been in a science-fiction sort of way for the past few weeks, I figured now was as good a time as any. And so, I've compiled a list of my twenty favorite aliens from film. The only real stipulations are that the character has to have appeared in at least one feature-length film, and the character must have origins on a planet other than Earth. I'll list them in descending order, so if you wanted to see my favorite, make a jump down to the bottom of this post. That being said, I hope you enjoy this list!
First Appearance: Le Voyage dans la lune (1902)
At the beginning of this post, I mentioned a little Georges Méliès film called Le Voyage dans la lune, which translates into English as A Trip to the Moon. It was a short film, spanning less than twenty minutes, but in that time, the world caught glimpse of what may have been the first cinematic creatures from outer space: the Selenites. Although a tad bit menacing, these creatures proved to be rather weak - it took only a blow to the head to destroy them. Despite this, they still provided the basic framework for every alien species that would ever be created in the medium of film, and for that, we should all be glad. We all should tip our hats to the brilliance that Méliès brought to the screen, both for creating these otherworldly creatures as well as creating the beginnings of the science-fiction genre.
First Appearance: Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)
Although I was tempted simply to list Wicket (pictured above) in this position, I ultimately chose to place the Ewoks as a whole onto this list. While Wicket is easily the most instantly recognizable of the bunch, it was the entire Ewok clan that helped the Rebel Alliance bring down the Empire in Return of the Jedi. And to think that all it took was a bunch of furballs using antiquated weaponry to bring down some of the most technologically-savvy villains in the galaxy. And they still managed to be cute and cuddly through it all. These guys were so beloved that they managed to nab two made-for-television spin-off flicks, and that alone has to say something.
First Appearance: Toy Story (1995)
Voiced by: Debi Derryberry
It'd be tough for me to leave these guys out of this list. Having grown up alongside the Toy Story franchise, their antics have become ingrained into my own consciousness. Whether they're worshiping the all-powerful claw or claiming their eternal gratefulness to a certain Mr. Potato Head, there's something terribly endearing about these three-eyed squeaky toys. The fact that they've become popular enough to last through three Toy Story films is also a tad bit incredible, but it's not something I'm really arguing against. They just know how to bring a smile to the audience's face.
First Film Appearance: Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
Portrayed by: Leonard Nimoy
I know that Dr. Spock has been around much longer than the first Star Trek film, but his inclusion in that film is what makes him eligible for this list. It was always nice to have a bit of a counter-balance to William Shatner's Captain Kirk, and as is evidenced by some of the film sequels, Spock had a much larger importance to the overall story than one could have originally imagined. Nimoy was perfect for the role, although I do think that Zachary Quinto did a fantastic job with the 2009 reboot.
First Appearance: Independence Day (1996)
These guys were some of the first aliens that ever gave me nightmares. Those of you who have been reading me for a while will remember these aliens' inclusion on the list of ten films that traumatized me, and to this day, they're still one of the creepier ones I've seen on the silver screen. They were equipped with an biomechanical exoskeleton that was creepy enough, but the smaller creatures housed inside those suits are just as spine-tingling. Their reflective eyes don't offer you any insight into what they might be thinking, and that might be the most terrifying part of all.
15. Kal-El / Superman
First Appearance: Superman (1978)
Portrayed by: Christopher Reeve
I know you're probably thinking, "Superman isn't an alien, is he?" Although it's not really the way most of us think about him, his past tells us that he is, in fact, an extra-terrestrial. Born on the planet Krypton before its ultimate demise, this superhuman individual finds a home on planet Earth, where he becomes the savior of many and the spoiler of criminals everywhere. But at his base, Kal-El is a man of Krypton, and it's this little tidbit that makes him eligible for this list.
First Appearance: Muppets from Space (1999)
Voiced by: Dave Goelz
Throughout Muppet history, the Great Gonzo was constantly referred to as a "whatever." He never resembled anything earthly, and as a result, he and his friends never knew just how to classify him. All of that changed with 1999's Muppets from Space, which finally gave Gonzo a sense of self in declaring him an extra-terrestrial. Having always been one of my favorite Muppets, I was glad to see that Gonzo was finally given a home and a sense of community rather than have him remain stuck as the "only one of his kind," so to speak.
First Appearance: Paul (2011)
Voiced by: Seth Rogen
In a send-up of nearly every classic sci-fi film that's ever graced the silver screen, you'd think that a movie like Paul would manage to bring us something a little bit different in terms of their alien. And why Paul's look is about as classic as you can get (although the resemblance is explained in the film), Paul's personality is about as different and out there as the possibility of having an alien encounter. This wise-cracking, pot-smoking extra-terrestrial turned the concept of a friendly alien on its ear when Paul hit theaters in 2011, but underneath all the jokes and the rudeness, Paul has quite a big heart, and that's what makes him all the more endearing.
First Appearance: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
As I wrote in my review of Close Encounters (link above the picture), this film changed the game a bit for the sci-fi alien sub-genre. Before Close Encounters was released, the concept of an alien coming to Earth was usually as a result of some sort of violent invasion; however, this film helped re-shape the extra-terrestrial identity into the possibility for a friendly encounter between human and alien. And although the aliens themselves are a little bit dorky, their method of communication with their human counterparts makes them all the more mystical. It's simply difficult not to like them.
11. Iron Giant
First Appearance: The Iron Giant (1999)
Voiced by: Vin Diesel
Animation has seen its fair share of alien life, but none is more fascinating than the Iron Giant from the 1999 film of the same name. The idea of an alien race made up of mechanical parts wasn't out of the blue in 1999 - you can thank the Transformers for that - but the Iron Giant was something a little bit different. The relationship he creates between himself and the young Hogarth is beautifully-crafted, and it makes for quite the turn of events as the film goes about its business.
First Appearance: District 9 (2009)
The biggest sci-fi blockbuster of 2009 was easily James Cameron's Avatar, but there was a smaller sci-fi flick that I thought outperformed the big-budget vehicle on every level, including in its visual effects. While Avatar was winning all the awards, I was strongly making the case for District 9's beautifully-crafted Prawn, whose intricate bodies were the most complex I had ever seen brought to life on-screen. The fact that they fit seamlessly into a real-life environment only enhanced the brilliance of their creation, and it made them seem all the more realistic. That alone should give them the nod over a long list of other computer-generated aliens.
First Appearance: The Thing (1982)
Don't let the above picture fool you into thinking you know what this crafty alien looks like. The whole point of The Thing is that we never truly know who or what this alien is because it has the ability to take on the shape of any living organism with which it comes in contact. This little feature makes it one of the more fascinating additions to the list as well as one of the more frightening. To think that the characters had to guess as to whether the people around them were themselves or were, in fact, this "thing" makes the concept of this alien incredibly terrifying.
First Appearance: Spaceballs (1987)
Portrayed by: John Candy
Barf, which is short for Barfolomew, is a race of alien known as a Mog, which is short for half-man, half-dog. He appears in the 1987 spoof Spaceballs, which plays off many of the classic sci-fi films of the 1970s and 1980s. Barf himself is a bit of a play on the Chewbacca character from the Star Wars franchise, but he's a tad bit funnier than his Wookiee counterpart. And he manages to be one of the funnier parts of the film, so that's an added bonus.
First Appearance: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Portrayed by: Michael Rennie
6. Audrey II
First Appearance: Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Voiced by: Levi Stubbs
5. Kro-Bar & Lattis
First Appearance: The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (2001)
Portrayed by: Andrew Parks & Susan McConnell
First Appearance: Star Wars (1977)
Portrayed by: Peter Mayhew
First Appearance: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Voiced by: Pat Welsh
First Appearance: Alien (1979)
First Appearance: Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Voiced by: Frank Oz