In these politically sensitive times, who’s a movie villain that all audiences, domestic and overseas, can be guaranteed to hiss at? Why, extraterrestrials, of course. The virtue of all the various versions of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds (including such ripoffs homages as Independence Day, pictured, and Mars Attacks!) is that the marauding aliens manage to unite squabbling earthlings against a common foe — at least, when they’re not running around in abject panic. But that only works when the aliens are green, slimy, or tentacled. When they look like us, as in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing, and their many remakes, the aliens exploit some of our ugliest character traits against us, including xenophobia, paranoia, and conformity.
Apocalyptic movies are much less optimistic about our ability to fight assimilationist aliens – unless we can find a nihilist hero like Nada (wrestler Roddy Piper) in 1988’s They Live. He unmasks a conspiracy by aliens disguised as yuppies to control humanity through television and subliminal messages – but it’s still up to the rest of us to do something about it.