We identify the 5 essential UFO films to watch after seeing Nope

·3 min read

Jordan Peele's sci-fi-horror film Nope (now in theaters) delivers on many levels, including that of being a terrific — and terrifying — UFO movie. The movie's characters, played by Keke Palmer, Daniel Kaluuya, and Steven Yeun (among others), attempt to deal with a threat from the skies. And if seeing the film has whetted your appetite for more cinematic close encounters, we recommend you check out the titles below.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Both intimate and epic, Steven Spielberg's masterpiece stars Richard Dreyfuss as an electrician who becomes obsessed with UFOs, while legendary French film director François Truffaut plays a scientist determined to make alien contact. It says much about Spielberg's career that, while Close Encounters may be the Citizen Kane of UFO movies, it isn't even his most successful entry in the subgenre: Definitely also see 1982's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and 2005's War of the Worlds.

The Thing (1982)

Speaking of E.T., Spielberg's movie crushed John Carpenter's The Thing at the summer box office, though four decades later, the Kurt Russell-starring terror machine is held in similarly high regard. Carpenter's film raises the question of what happens if you dig up and defrost an alien many years after its craft has crash-landed on Earth, and answers the query with an unforgettable onslaught of frights and special effects. (See also 1951's The Thing from Another World, adapted from the same source material.)

Independence Day (1996)

Director Roland Emmerich and co-writer Dean Devlin skillfully married the disaster film with the UFO genre in this tale of a world waking up to discover massive spaceships hanging over every major city. Do the extraterrestrials come in peace? Let's just say that, prior to this year's Oscars, the most famous smack delivered by Will Smith was upon an alien. See also 2002's Signs and 2009's District 9. (Don't see 2016's Smith-less sequel Independence Day: Resurgence.)

Mars Attacks! (1996)

A younger, tripping-on-acid sibling to Independence Day, Tim Burton's utterly bananas movie features hordes of alien invaders mercilessly murdering people, promising not to do it again, and then doing it again. The starry cast includes Michael J. Fox (almost immediately incinerated), Sarah Jessica Parker, who winds up with her head stitched to the body of a dog, and Jack Nicholson, who, for reasons which are never explained, is seen playing both a casino operator and the President of the United States. Also? Tom Jones!

The Vast of Night (2019)

In this instant cult classic from filmmaker Andrew Patterson, a young 1950s disc jockey (Jake Horowitz) and a geeky switchboard operator (Sierra McCormick) investigate a possible conspiracy designed to hide the existence of UFOs. Made for a tiny fraction of Spielberg's budget on Close Encounters, the result succeeds in delivering a similar mix of frights and cosmic awe. In the same vein: 1989's Communion and 1993's Fire in the Sky.

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