Science fiction has long been an arena for creative minds to wonder what the future holds -- and more specifically, if we, as humans, are the only living beings floating around this vast tapestry we call the universe. As we enter an age where vacations to Mars could soon be a reality, many of the questions sci-fi poses might soon be answered: Is there other life out there? If so, will our galactic neighbors be peaceful? How will we communicate with them, and what, if anything, can we gain from one another?
We likely have some time to keep speculating. And Arrival, which hits theaters this weekend, does so in graceful fashion, showcasing a mysterious race of aliens with mysterious priorities. To get you in the mood for Denis Villeneuve's awe-inspiring language-breaching, mind-bender -- as well as the near future -- we've catalogued a variety of our favorite alien movies below, all of which you can stream right now.
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The Thing (1982)
When John Carpenter and Bill Lancaster took a crack at adapting John W. Campbell Jr.'s novella Who Goes There?, they churned out a seriously repellant gross-out horror. The movie, which tells the story of an alien force that assimilates other organisms at an Antarctic research station, comes littered with popping eyeballs, splitting heads, bursting chests, and other gag-worthy body brutalities. It's not the kind of classic you watch if you're interested in a nuanced lead (here, Kurt Russell) or complex character relationships. But it's great in other ways: The Thing boasts solid jump-scares, kick-ass makeup effects (shout-out to Rob Bottin, whose work you should know from Game of Thrones), and a spellbinding sense of anxiety.
Stream on: Crackle
A friendly going-away party turns into a doomsday disaster in Matt Reeves' unrelentingly tense, loud, shaky monster flick, when an alien behemoth wreaks havoc on Midtown Manhattan. Thankfully, a very young T.J. Miller, inappropriate quips in tow, opts to film all the explosive carnage, found-footage style. The conceit drops you in the middle of the drama, alongside several ugly spider-looking motherfuckers.
Stream on: Hulu, Amazon Prime
There's something otherworldly about Arnold Schwarzenegger. With his enormous physique, unwavering confidence, and off-putting charm, he often seems less than human. So it makes sense that his most worthy opponent came from outer space. In Predator -- one of our 33 best action movie picks of all time -- Schwarzenegger's Dutch leads a six-man team to rescue hostages, and they quickly find themselves facing off against an invisibility cloak-wearing alien with a scary mouth. Director John McTiernan, the great unsung hero of action cinema, films the macho showdown with a clear-eyed, tactile approach that keeps even the more ridiculous elements grounded in mud, sweat, and celebratory cigar smoke.
Stream on: STARZ
The Faculty (1998)
Robert Rodriguez's teeny-bopper update of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is perfect late-night cable trash. Like the similarly cheeky Planet Terror, the movie isn't meant to be taken too seriously -- the presence of a goateed pre-Daily Show Jon Stewart as a science teacher should probably tip you off -- but it delivers solid scares down the stretch; plus, the clever script from Scream scribe Kevin Williamson has more than enough twists to keep you from nodding off. Throw it on after a night out and soak up the late-'90s nostalgia.
Stream on: Amazon Prime
Following the success of the Oscar-winning Forrest Gump, director Robert Zemeckis helmed this often exciting, occasionally ponderous adaptation of Carl Sagan's best-selling novel of the same name. Like Arrival or Christopher Nolan's Interstellar, this is an alien flick that emphasizes hard science, complex technology, and gooey melodrama over explosions. With a determined Jodie Foster at its center, the movie works because of her even-keeled performance, grounding all the theoretical physics in tangible emotions.
Stream on: Netflix
Independence Day (1996)
Life offers few pleasures as pure as watching Will Smith punch an alien in the face and say, "Welcome to Earth." While Independence Day is not a great movie -- and, according to most reviews, its recent sequel was legitimately awful -- it does have a series of great moments held together by sticky blockbuster cheese. There's the dolphin wedding ring Smith buys for Vivica A. Fox's stripper with a heart of gold, the still-startling White House explosion, Bill Pullman's stirring presidential speech, and, of course, Randy Quaid yelling, "Hello boys, I'm back," as he hurls his fighter jet into a giant green beam to save humanity. It's not perfect, but it is perfectly stupid.
Stream on: HBO
Galaxy Quest (1999)
Parodying nerd culture can be tricky -- just ask the guys who made Fanboys -- but when done correctly, the results can be divine. This witty comedy about the cast of a Star Trek-like cult television show that gets transported to a "real" alien planet is the perfect combination of warm, loving tribute and breezy, ribbing satire. Performances from a game Tim Allen, Tony Shalhoub, Sigourney Weaver, and the late Alan Rickman, as the cast's perpetually typecast Spock stand-in Alexander Dane, all help bring a sharp script to vibrant life. By Grabthar's hammer, please stream this movie.
Stream on: Netflix
District 9 (2009)
Neill Blomkamp's first feature effort puts a thought-provoking spin on the idea of an invasion by essentially enslaving a race of prawn-like visitors and forcing them to live in South African slums. Sharlto Copley stars as a government worker who, when tasked with relocating the downtrodden ETs, has an accident that changes both his worldview and his fate. The movie's strengths are its historical parallels, cool-as-hell gadgetry, and moral heart -- the last of which will leave you wondering, Should we fear aliens, or should they fear us?
Stream on: FXNOW
Fire in the Sky (1993)
It's hard not to prejudice Fire in the Sky based on its nonfiction source material. But it's not as if queuing up the movie adaptation of Travis Walton's alien-abduction account makes you a believer. And you'll at least be treated to a pair of superlative merits. One would be the film's money shot: a ridiculous, yet prevailingly horrifying, visualization of Walton's alleged time aboard the supposed spaceship, complete with slicing, probing, suffocating, and supremely creepy ETs. The other is D.B. Sweeney's tender turn as a shell-shocked small-town boy fitting back into the life he left behind while getting ritually tortured. As true-life narrative, it's preposterous. As an easy analogue to myriad post-trauma "coming home" flicks, it resonates. And for fans of medium-budget curiosities that don't quite satisfy mainstream taste or cult obsession, it's a hidden gem.
Stream on: Netflix
They Live (1988)
In John Carpenter's satirical invasion thriller, wrestler "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, playing a mullet-rocking drifter named John Nada, is our last line of defense against aliens who have already infiltrated our world. Sporting a pair of super-cool sunglasses, Piper sees the darker truths that hide beneath modern society's cheery advertisements. By combining genuinely clever social commentary with simple B-movie pleasures, Carpenter crafted a brutish Reagan-era critique of mass media that still packs a punch. Plus: it's got that six-minute fight scene. You know you want to watch that six-minute fight scene.
Stream on: MAX GO
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
When mysterious seeds invade Earth and start rapidly replacing humans with emotionless clones, health inspector Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) decides to investigate. Philip Kaufman's remake of the 1956 classic moves Jack Finney's original story to San Francisco, adds about a half-hour of runtime, and features a very young and cranky Jeff Goldblum. The movie plays as a gripping dead-eyed thriller, infused with palpable paranoia and unexpected surges of humor.
Stream on: Hulu
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