More often than not, movies depict aliens as monstrous beings out to destroy us, invade us, enslave us, assimilate us, or simply use us in ungodly experiments involving Chihuahuas.
No question about it, when it comes to the pictures, aliens tend to get a bad rap. There are, however, those filmmakers who would have us believe something other than pure terror awaits us in the starry heavens. That aliens may even want to help us or teach us something, as opposed to spanning galaxies simply to try out their new cookbook. Today, we honor those noble space dwellers who have captured our fascinations and given us reason to look to the stars and the future with open hearts and warm expectations.
But before we begin, I do have to address one glaring omission. It hasn’t escaped my attention that one pretty iconic, Reese’s-shilling extraterrestrial has somehow burrowed his way into the hearts of moviegoers with the tenacity of one of Dreamcatcher’s ass-weasels. I, on the other hand, was scared poopless when I first saw E.T. and therefore cannot in good conscience say I wish the little scamp was a flesh-and-blood thing living among us. Believe me, I wish I could have had a normal childhood like the rest of you and retrieved many a sleepless night spent wondering if some gremlin-y creature was going to come tearing out of my closet in a faux mink stole and a summer dress.
So E.T. can go on your list, which will hopefully keep him from rabidly clawing his way into my dreams at night. I’d appreciate that actually. Thank you.
Without further ado, here are the top 10 aliens that really would make life just so much better…
Okay, so on paper, a bioengineered bulletproof, fireproof, by all means indestructible koala with fangs and a mania for destruction doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of thing you’d want to invite into our little corner of the universe. But give the lil’ devil a family, a role model, and a creative outlet for his pent-up savagery, and he’ll turn out pretty alright. More than alright.
With his destructive energies channeled into doing good and his newfound respect for all living things, Stitch is very nearly a model citizen (just one who spins out of control and remodels the kitchen by force every once in a while). If your heart doesn’t melt when Stitch builds a pint-sized reconstruction of downtown San Francisco out of bedroom playthings and goes Godzilla on its ass, you might want to look in the mirror to see who the real monster is.
No, not vee-gans. Vay-gans—as in the space folk who live near the star Vega in the 1997 film Contact, based on Carl Sagan’s novel. (Though vegans are pretty out there, too.)
There’s been a fair handful of purely benevolent extraterrestrial species on film: the angelic seafarers from The Abyss, those big, creepy, but well-meaning, sentient hands from Arrival, whatever species Mr. Bean is, and Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still who told us, “Quit playing with nuclear weapons or I’ll blow you up myself” (okay, not 100% sure about the benevolence of that last one). But the Vegans from Contact best them all on the simplicity and the purity of their message. They just want to inspire us to be good and to let us know we’re not alone in the universe. When life is turning up nothing but chestbursters and death-rays, sometimes all you want is a simple message of hope from space.
Okay, if the Na’vi actually lived among us that might just produce a whole lot of envy over not having cool tails we could plug into those pterodactyl-like mountain banshees so we could fly them through the sky. Still, the Na’vi are incredible lifeforms—agile, elegant, deep thinking, compassionate. They would be marvelous additions to Earth’s biosphere and marvelous influences upon our own human culture. They could certainly teach us a thing or two about finding a better balance between the eternal push for industrial development and our stewardship of the planet. I mean, we probably would just kill them all the first time they threw rocks at one of our bulldozers, but it would be great to have them here those first couple of days, wouldn’t it?
Two years after terrorizing a research crew in the Antarctic with an alien that mimics us so that it may annihilate us, John Carpenter crash-landed in Chequamegon Bay, Wisconsin, a different extraterrestrial—one that mimics us so that we will not be afraid of it. Awww.
Jeff Bridges earned a well-deserved Oscar nom for playing the titular role. His so-called “Starman” assumes the likeness of the recently deceased husband of Jenny (Karen Allen) while retaining all the gawking, head-bobbing simplicity of a baby bird poking its head out of the nest for the first time. Starman’s influence doesn’t extend far beyond his encounters with Jenny, but he does share with humanity orbs which raise deer from the dead.
While roadkill would probably benefit the most from having a real Starman around, we could all benefit from observing the almost childlike wonder Bridges’ happenstantial visitor experiences over all the little things: dancing, driving, eating, making love on a bed of straw in a rumbling boxcar while thunder and lightning fill the night sky outside. You know, the little things we take for granted every day? Savor them the way Starman savors them and you’ll never want for awe and joy and splendor in your life.
Casually known as “worms,” though Agent K will insist you show the proper respect and call them by their names (Neeble, Geeble, Sleeble, and Mannix), these potty-mouthed, java-loving loafers only narrowly miss the top 5 because they’ve never saved a human life before and frankly probably couldn’t be bothered to if the opportunity presented itself. But that’s all a part of their charm, isn’t it?
These guys are awesome! All they do is lounge about, guzzle coffee, and complain. Who doesn’t love complaining? Sure, things could be worse, but they could be a helluva lot better too, couldn’t they? Wouldn’t it be great to have some crass worms around to tell you so? Yes, they have their foibles like mouthing off, chain-smoking, and committing larceny—but you have foibles too, don’t pretend you don’t.
Refreshingly cynical, unsettlingly appealing, these worms managed to wrest MIB’s spot on this list away from Frank the talking pug, and that is no small feat. Aw hell, Frank, we wish you existed too. You too, baby squid. You all can exist in our dream aliens-on-Earth utopia.
Or Leluminaï Lekatariba Lamina-Tchaï, Ekbat De Sabat, which roughly translates to “Precious Stone of the Earth, Defender of Light and Life, the Honorable.” (I’m sure that probably just took you down a peg if you’ve been cruising through life thinking your name is pretty hot stuff.)
The Fifth Element wasn’t exactly a film that bothered itself with logic. The movie’s plot sustains itself almost entirely upon the furious laboring of fan theory. Everyone who initially thought Leeloo must have somehow been of Mondoshawan origin (one of those big, waddling, duck-faced beings) can be forgiven as she spawns from some super DNA found in a severed Mondoshawan gauntlet, and the last time we had seen a Mondoshawan was when its gauntleted hand became trapped in the sliding doors of a pyramid. It’s an easy mistake to make when you bought your ticket primarily for Bruce Willis and the explosions.
Leeloo is in fact a Supreme Being. Sort of like Gandalf but with orange hair and a leotard. Fan theory again (doing the jobs of screenwriters since well before the dawn of the internet) proposes that this Supreme Being with the abundance of genetic information stored in its DNA simply elected to take the form of Earth’s dominant species.
Wherever she came from and whatever she is, pretty sure we can all agree Leeloo is adorable and amazing. She stormed the gates of mid-90s nerd culture with a big bada boom, leaving us all as dazed as the Mangalorean mercenaries who fell victim to her mesmerizing dance kung fu.
Ah, Galaxy Quest…the best Star Trek movie they ever made. Yes, I said it. No, I’m not taking it back. Ever. Because it’s true.
A big part of what makes Galaxy Quest such an underrated gem is the delightfully awkward, endearingly naive, and profoundly noble race of Thermians. They look at mankind the way a dog looks at mankind, and I mean that in the best and truest sense possible. Imagine a society that operates completely without deceit to the point of not even having an understanding of the concept.
Sure, the shrill, trilling laughter would no doubt grate on one’s nerves over time and they do rather look like the offspring of Cthulu under their human get-ups, but if just a fraction of the Thermians’ gentle natures rubbed off on our own species, we’d be taking a hard turn toward a better future in no time.
They can keep the goofy bowl cuts though.
Saddled with unfortunate nicknames like “walking carpet” and prone to occasional eruptions of limb dismembering rage, Chewbacca is nevertheless one of the chillest, most down-to-Earth movie aliens of all time. He’s that guy you called over to play pick-up basketball on your team because he’s seven and a half feet tall but by the end of the day you’re clinking brewskies and shooting the tauntaun scat like you’ve been friends your whole lives.
If there’s one movie alien who would make an awesome housemate, it’s Chewie. Yoda wouldn’t be a bad alternative. I mean, he’d be good for helping move furniture around, definitely, but by the third time he curled his Muppety lip at you and murmured, “No more beer, you have,” you’d want to chuck him out the window. Naw, Chewie’s where it’s at. Just be prepared to lose a lot of video games. All of them, actually, if you like keeping your arms where they are currently.
In life, we call people who don’t get in touch with their feelings repressed. In science fiction, we call them an advanced civilization, and while the Vulcans as a whole are far from having it all together, there is one Vulcan in particular we should all be proud to have as an Earth citizen in the year 2265.
While Spock’s diplomacy, intellect, command of military strategy, and acute philosophical questioning all mark him as a shining exemplar of the Starfleet ethos, his finest hour arrives in The Wrath of Khan when he gives up his own life that his fellow crew might keep theirs, embodying to the end the sentiment that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” A beautiful and deeply meaningful sacrifice. Made us forget “Spock’s Brain” ever happened. Almost.
While it’s easy to make fun of him for wearing his underwear on the outside of his pants (and I simply don’t think that’s going to catch on at this point—believe me, I’ve tried), you can’t deny Superman deserves this top spot more than any other dude from space.
Though he lost his home world and his biological family along with it, Kal-El found a new home and a new destiny saving countless human lives on the regular here on Earth. While there’s always some bureaucrat, some army general, or some punk disc jockey who thinks Supes is the worst thing since bread before there were bread slicers, the Big Blue Boy Scout’s endless optimism in the face of adversity and record of deterring galactic menaces speak for themselves. And the only thing he’s ever asked for in return from us has been ALL OF THE BURGERS.
Superman, a great and noble alien that one.
Mike E. is a freelance journalist who enjoys watching, reading, and writing science fiction. He’s still waiting for the day dinosaur cloning is made a reality, ethical implications be damned. Until then, he looks forward to future installments of the Jurassic Park/World series.