The Best Alien Horror Movies
We as people have been obsessed with what lies beyond the cosmos since recorded history. What if what we find though is something unimaginable? Like an alien with acidic blood or a creature that takes the guise of a killer clown? We scoured the edges of space and cinema to bring you our twenty favorite alien horror movies. Get your space suits on because we’re going where no film fan has gone before!
1. Alien (1979)
Runtime: 1 hour, 57 minutes
Alien is directed by Ridley Scott, written by Ronald Shusett and Dan O’Bannon. The movie features Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, and John Hurt playing the main cast of characters. Alien does an awesome job at building Ellen Ripley into a relatable main protagonist.
One of the most appealing aspects of Alien is the way the film approaches the Xenomorph. The film gives little explanation as to what the monster wants. As viewers, we get to see very little of the Xenomorph in the movie. This gives the film a sense of mystery and uncertainty that helps amplify the horror. Alien is on our list of best sci-fi horror movies because it embodies the best parts of science fiction while giving us a new gritty and mysterious monster.
2. Aliens (1986)
Runtime: 1 hour, 57 minutes
Aliens is directed and co-written by James Cameron. It was also written by Walter Hill and David Giler. The movie features a stellar cast that features Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, and Michael Biehn. Fifty-seven years after the first film’s events, we find out that Ripley survived her first encounter with the Xenomorph.
While having a much more action focus compared to its predecessor, Aliens keeps the horror the Xenomorph from Alien, only amplifying to the extreme with hundreds of Xenomorphs and the badass new addition of the Queen Xenomorph. Aliens also fully cemented Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley character as one of the best women action stars of all time. Aliens also include some of the most stellar work from practical effects wizard Stan Winston and Cameron’s own practical sense of realism he adds to his genre films.
3. Fire in the Sky (1993)
Runtime: 1 hour, 49 minutes
Fire in the Sky is directed by Robert Lieberman, written by Tracy Tormé, and based on the book The Wolton Experience written by Travis Walton. The film’s cast includes D.B. Sweeney, Robert Patrick, and Craig Sheffer. The film is based on Travis Walton’s accounts of what he claims to be an alien abduction he had experienced in 1975.
Fire in the Sky for the most part is a biopic drama dealing with the disappearance and discovery of Travis Walton after an apparent UFO encounter. Most of the film is dealing with the fears of what happened to Travis and the fallout of his trauma. However, the film takes a hard left turn with one of the most horrific sequences in alien horror movies on this list where Travis remembers what happened when he was captured by aliens and the alien experimentation scene is pure nightmare fuel.
4. The War of the Worlds (1953)
Runtime: 1 hour, 25 minutes
The first film adaptation of the H.G. Wells sci-fi novel classic was directed by Bryon Haskins with a screenplay by Barré Lyndon. The cast includes the likes of Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, and Les Tremayne. This adaptation of the sci-fi literary masterpiece follows the general premise of a group of survivors witnessing and evading a martian invasion that makes a warpath across the globe.
War of the Worlds is THE quintessential alien invasion premise and the 1953 version holds up incredibly well! One of the few 1950s alien invader films to be in color, the film looks gorgeous even as we see the awesome yet creepy space ships lay waste to humanity. It also includes some very good suspense when our human characters encounter the aliens themselves. Sure it may look silly now but in terms of 1950s sci-fi, this was some scary stuff!
5. The Blob (1988)
Runtime: 1 hour, 35 minutes
This 1988 remake of the 1958 B-Movie classic is directed and co-written by Chuck Russell. It was also written by Frank Darabont, Kay Linaker, and Theodore Simonson with the story by Irvine H. Millgate. It stars Kevin Dillon, Shawnee Smith, and Joe Seneca. The film follows a small town attacked by an ever-growing mass of slime that fell from a meteor and consumes any living creature it comes in contact with. At the same time, a duo of young teens has to contend with the US military who claim to want to stop the creature but clearly has more sinister intentions.
Throughout the 1980s we saw many remakes of 1950s sci-fi classics given a then-modern edge such as more overtly horror elements and awesome use of practical effects. The 1988 remake of The Blob is a prime example of this trend when it came to alien horror films with it taking the 1958 Cold War-era sci-fi conventions and turning them on their heads. This includes a much more scary Blob that viscously attacks its victims with spectacular special effects and adds a post-Vietnam War suspicion of the US government compared to its 50s pro generator.
6. John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)
Runtime: 1 hour, 49 minutes
This second adaptation of the John W. Campbell Jr. novella “Who Goes There?” is directed by horror master John Carpenter with the screenplay written by Bill Lancaster. The Thing features an ensemble cast that includes the likes of Kurt Russell, Keith David, and Willford Brimley to name a few. The film follows a US Antarctic research outpost that encounters a seemingly normal dog pursued by what appeared to be crazed men from a nearby Norwegian outpost, only to discover the dog is actually a shape-shifting alien and has begun infecting members of the outpost.
The quintessential example of 80s horror, The Thing features some of the best suspense of alien horror movies along with the most spectacular practical effects done by Rob Bottin. Carpenter takes full advantage of the Antarctic setting with a sense of cold and isolation, adding more to the bottleneck tension. The film adds on top the mystery of who is infected and became “The Thing” and makes even the audience themselves doubt who is our hero and who is the monster.
7. The Thing From Another World (1951)
Runtime: 1 hour, 27 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
The first adaptation of the novella “Who Goes There?”, The Thing From Another World is directed by Christian Nyby. It features a screenplay by Charles Lederer with uncredited additional writing by Howard Hawks and Ben Hetch. The film’s cast includes Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, Robert Cornthwaite, and Douglas Spencer. This adaptation changes the location to a US north Pole expedition outpost where a team of scientists and military personnel uncover the frozen remains of a crashed UFO and its alien pilot.
While not as popular or well-known compared to its 1982 remake, The Thing From Another Wolrd is classic 50s alien horror at its finest. The film features fast-talking banter and dialogue akin to comedies at the time that adds more realism and humanity to the cast of characters. This version of The Thing itself is more akin to Frankenstein than the eldritch body horror monstrosity from Carpenter’s film, but it still manages to be a scary threat thanks to Nyby’s directing and the performance of The Thing himself James Arness.
8. The Mist (2007)
Runtime: 2 hours, 6 minutes
Based on the novella of the same name by horror legend Stephen King, The Mist is written and directed by Frank Darabont. The main cast includes Thomas Jane, Marcy Gay Harden, and Laurie Holden. The film takes place in the usual Stephen King seeing of a small town in Maine, only for the inhabitants to be trapped in a mysterious mist that is filled with alien horrors from another dimension.
The Mist is one of those Stephen King adaptations that flies under the radar of many and yet those who remember to have it etched into their mind as one of the darkest films based on the writer’s work. Darabont wanted to homage the creature features of the 1950s and 60s, but add more overt elements of cosmic horror as we see our heroes trapped in a supermarket with threats on the outside with the monsters and in the supermarket with the fellow townsfolk becoming desperate and hostile. Plus the infamous ending to this film makes it one of the most nihilistic conclusions when it comes to alien horror movies.
9. Sputnik (2020)
Runtime: 1 Hour, 53 Minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Sputnik is directed by Egor Abramenko, written by Oleg Malovichko and Andrey Zolotarev. The film stars Oksana Akinshina, Fedor Bondarchuk, and Pyotr Fyodorov. The film follows the lone survivor of a strange spaceship incident but they haven’t returned home alone.
One of the most underrated horror movies of 2020, Sputnik proves that alien horror movies are here to stay. This Russian sci-fi horror is essentially Venom but more obviously horrifying, with the alien itself being one of the creepiest yet coolest monsters from recent memory. We highly recommend finding this one as it was criminal just how little attention it has gotten.
10. Predator (1987)
Runtime: 1 hour, 47 minutes
This 1980s machismo classic is directed by John McTiernan with the screenplay written by Jim and John Thomas. It features the 1980s hyper-masculine star power of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, and Kevin Peter Hall. Predator follows a group of soldiers sent on what seemed to be a rescue mission in South America, only to be stalked by an alien hunter looking for new trophies: man.
Despite having a reputation as a sci-fi action movie blockbuster, Predator is essentially a slasher movie with the victims being 80s male action heroes instead of teens. This is shown just how efficient and brutal the titular Predator, created by the effects master Stan Winston, is as he takes out one soldier after another with no mercy and lots of gore. The Predator even makes the likes of Arnold look small and he has to use his wits instead of brute strength to survive this big game hunt.
11. Lifeforce (1985)
Runtime: 1 hour, 41 minutes
Lifeforce is directed by the late Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s Tobe Hooper with a screenplay written by Dan O’Bannon and Don Jakoby. Lifeforce stars Steve Railsback, Mathilda May, Patrick Stewart, and Peter Firth. Based on the novel “The Space Vampires” by Colin Wilson, Lifeforce follows the lone survivor of an expedition to an alien craft in our solar system as the crew brought with them life energy draining vampiric aliens to Earth.
One of Hooper’s most ambitious films, Lifeforce is a mix of alien horror movies, vampire mythos, a zombie apocalypse, and cosmic horror in this lavish 1985 film. There is a sense of dread throughout the film as our protagonist is both infatuated and fearful of the lead vampire played by Mathilda May. Add one a spectacular third act that sees London under siege and this is one of Hooper’s best.
12. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Runtime: 1 hour, 45 minutes
10 Cloverfield Lane comes to us from director Dan Trachtenberg. It was written by Josh Campbell, Matt Stuekem, and Damien Chazelle. The cast includes John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and John Gallagher Jr. The film follows a young woman trapped in a homemade survival bunker by a panicked man who claims he saved her from an alien invasion that is outside the bunker.
Despite being a loose-at-best sequel to 2008’s found-footage kaiju film Cloverfield, 10 Cloverfield Lane is an amazing suspense bottleneck film despite being minimal in its approach. John Goodman steals the film in his unhinged performance being both mesmerizing and terrifying. The film has us doubt if aliens are even involved but once the rug is pulled under us we have one of the best alien horror movies despite an admittedly weak conclusion.
13. They Live (1988)
Runtime: 1 hour, 34 minutes
Written and directed by John Carpenter, They Live is loosely based on the Ray Nelson short story “Eight O’Clock in the Morning.” Starring in this film includes late professional wrestler Roddy Piper with Keith David and Meg Foster as co-stars. They Live follows a downtrodden construction worker who soon discovers a horrifying discovery via mysterious sunglasses that aliens disguised as humans who apparently control the human population with subliminal messages.
Before Jordan Peele‘s Get Out brought social horror to the mainstream, John Carpenter gave us this alien horror movie gem with They Live. A vicious satire and critique of 1980s Reagan-era capitalism, They Live uses its aliens to show the inhumanity of late-stage capitalism and government control, making the most unique of the alien horror movies on this list. They Live also features one of the most iconic lines of the 1980s thanks to Roddy Piper himself: “I am here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I am all out of bubblegum.”
14. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Runtime: 1 hour, 55 minutes
This remake of the 1956 sci-fi horror classic is directed by Philip Kaufman and written by W.D. Ritcher. Its cast includes Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy, and Jeff Goldblum. This second adaptation of the Jack Finney novel “The Body Snatchers” follows a group of people realizing individuals they know are acting bizarre as it turns out they are duplicates created by invading plant-like alien organisms.
While the 1956 version is definitely a masterpiece, the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers captures more of what you want from alien horror movies. Here director Philip Kaufman adds 1970s era surrealism and dread popular among 1970s science fiction and horror films to reflect the post-Vietnam era anxieties as opposed to the 1950s fear of communism. Also, the film’s nihilistic ending rivals The Mist with how devastating it was for moviegoers.
15. Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)
Runtime: 1 hour, 23 minutes
This wonderful film was directed and co-written by the Chiodo Brothers: Stephen, Charles, and Edward Chiodo. Killer Klowns From Outer Space stars Grant Kramer, Suzanne Snyder, John Allen Nelson, and John Vernon. The plot follows a group of teens discovering aliens that resemble circus clowns have invaded their small town as they turn the populace into cotton candy cocoons.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space is awesome! What else do you want us to say? It’s got amazing effects by Chiodo Brothers, an amazing score by John Massari, great humor, and a kick-ass theme song by 1980s punk band The Dickies. We even get the Killer Klowns using a shadow dinosaur to eat people! Do yourself a favor and just watch this cult classic!
16. Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)
Runtime: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Invasion of Astro-Monster is directed by kaiju genre legend Ishiro Honda with the screenplay written by Shinichi Sekizawa. It stars Nick Adams, Akira Takarada, Jun Tazaki, and Kumi Mizuno. The plot follows a space expedition the newly discovered “Planet X” by a joint US/Japanese spaceflight with the astronauts encountering the planet’s inhabitants the “Xillians”. The Xillians beg for earth’s aid the kaiju Godzilla and Rodan the fight off the deadly King Ghidorah from Planet X, but more sinister motives lie behind the scenes.
As to be expected any list involving creature features as to bring in Japan’s biggest mon-star Godzilla! Invasion of Astro-Monster is a major milestone for the Godzilla franchise as this is the first entry to include the plot point of alien invaders, plus features Godzilla’s iconic arch-nemesis: King Ghidorah. The film is one of the few co-American-produced Toho kaiju films featuring the ever charismatic duo of Nick Adams and Akira Takarada. Add on spectacular kaiju action from the tokusatsu master Eiji Tsuburaya (including Godzilla’s now-iconic victory dance) and this is a feast for the monster side of alien horror movies.
17. A Quiet Place (2018)
Runtime: 1 hour, 30 minutes
A Quiet Place is directed and co-written by John Krasinski. It is also written by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck. The film also stars Kransinki with co-stars Emily Blunt, Micillent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe. The film follows a family in a post-apocalyptic world filled with sound-sensitive alien monsters ravaging humanity as they target any sound they can hear.
A Quiet Place took the world by surprise in 2018 and for good reason: it’s just that damn good. Borderline a silent film, Krasinski’s directing and the entire cast (especially Millicent Simmonds) act their asses off despite having very few speaking lines. And for a PG-13 film, it is shockingly brutal with the aliens themselves being a force of fear even when not on screen. This film will definitely test your nerves.
18. Attack the Block (2011)
Runtime: 1 hour, 28 minutes
This hidden gem from 2011 is written and directed by Joe Cornish. It stars John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail, and Nick Frost. The film follows the inhabitants of a south London apartment complex, including a group of inner-city kids, who have to fight off alien creatures that invaded their block.
Attack the Block is one of those films that are relevant then and relevant now with its social commentary of classism and racism in the UK, particularly in the inner-city of London. A pre-Star Wars John Boyega stands out as a compelling leading hero as we see why he would be one of the major stars of a franchise like Star Wars. Plus the weird solid black yet glowing aliens create a striking image.
19. Color Out of Space (2019)
Runtime: 1 hour, 51 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Color Out of Space would be directed by Richard Stanley with additional writing for the screenplay by Scarlett Amaris. It stars Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Madeleine Arthur, Elliot Knight, and Tommy Chong. Based on the classic short story “The Colour Out of Space” by H.P. Lovecraft, this adaptation follows a family whose farm had a meteor crashland and an alien presence begins to mutate the land and inhabitants into its eldritch image.
Very few adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft’s work capture the “indescribable horror” he conveys in his writing. But Stanley manages to give us a beautiful yet grotesque realization of Lovecraftian Horror as it’s a spectacle to behold. The film also features the manic greatness of Nicolas Cage and this is a film that fans of alien horror movies and cosmic horror would appreciate.
20. It Chapter One and Two (2017 and 2019)
Runtime: 4 hours, 5 minutes combined
Both films in this duology are directed by Andy Muschietti and written by Gary Dauberman. These films star a monstrous cast that includes Finn Wolfhard, Jaeden Martell, James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, and of course Bill Skarsgård to name a few.
Based on the horror epic by Stephen King, It Chapter One follows a group of outcast kids who call themselves “The Losers Club” having to face an ancient alien evil that takes the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown that awakens every 27 years to feed on the town’s children and marginalized. It Chapter Two has the kids return to their old town as adults as Pennywise would return the continue his bloody reign and torment the ones who almost killed it.
The last entry on our list of alien horror movies may seem like cheating at first, but knowing that both films are two halves of one adaptation makes sense as this is one gigantic horror story. It is one of Stephen King’s most iconic stories as it is the quintessential “kids on bikes” kind of narrative we’ll see explode in popularity decades to come and these films exemplify that. The cast is phenomenal (especially the grown-up versions of the Losers Club) and Bill Skarsgård is a modern horror icon for his performance as the alien fear entity Pennywise. These films are a must-watch for any fan of alien horror movies.
What Are Your Favorite Alien Horror Movies?
We hope you enjoyed the list of our favorite alien horror movies! Did we miss any of your favorites? Maybe you discovered some new films you may not have heard of. Let us know on social media!