I grew up in the 1980s, as so many of us did, and as far back as I can remember so many stories and television shows and movies and books were about UFOs, flying saucers, and “little green” aliens. These tales weren’t meant to be told to scare anyone but we mostly mocked and made fun of the subject, and it was even worse for those that have reported these types of stories in the media only to be met with ridicule and controversy. Aware of these facts, I was not ready to be lunged into what would be a lifelong fascination and phobia on the night of Sep 20th, 1989 on the season two premier of one of my favorite TV shows at the time, ‘Unsolved Mysteries.’ I don’t recall the first story that night, but the second and last story was of the “alleged” UFO crash north-west of Roswell, New Mexico in July of 1947. I was mesmerized and dumbfounded and couldn’t look away. During my amazement I heard one of my parents mutter, “Oh, I remember this story.” implying that it wasn’t anything new and was an already well known story. I could remember almost every detail of the brief dramatization and after which I couldn’t get it out of my mind. At my elementary school library we did have a small selection of UFO, alien abduction, and Roswell incident books available to be checked out, and I probably read them all, twice! I would imagine what those people saw and wondered how they felt and took it to heart. That same year I was hit with another alien encounter TV broadcast that would change my life forever, which is also the number one movie on this list, the Top 5 Scariest Alien Abduction Movies of all time according to me!
5. Extraterrestrial (2014)
First of all, I’m a great admirer of Canadian filmed horror movies. They have that essence of ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark’ but in a grown up story with better special effects. This movie doesn’t disappoint. It has a typical group horror movie premise where the cast is slowly whittled down to maybe two or a lone survivor AKA “final girl.” It is the brainchild of The Vicious Brothers, also known for the ‘Grave Encounters’ film series. It follows the main character April who has been tasked to go to her family’s vacation home in the mountains to take some pictures for the real estate agent to hopefully sell the home. As we have all become accustomed to in horror movies, it is heavily implied that all teenagers and young adults make very stupid decisions, and this group of degenerates is no different. April had decided to only take her boyfriend, Kyle, along with her for an intimate weekend alone, but he of course invited his friends to join them for the getaway to get wasted and make poor choices. What ensues on the group is a suspenseful ride of being hunted down by alien visitors until each one is captured or dead.
There are also some great actors in this from well known films such as two from the first ‘Ginger Snaps’ movie, Jesse Moss and Emily Perkins. It also can’t go without saying that one of the best things about this movie is the living legend Michael Ironside graces us with his presence as a paranoid ex-soldier that now spends his time growing marijuana near the family vacation home of April (Brittany Allen). Another great touch to the cast is Gil Bellows who plays the troubled-past-having Sheriff Murphy, but most people know him from playing the young rock-and-roller Tommy in the cult classic ‘The Shawshank Redemption.’ All in all, this movie is not what it perceives itself to be or by what the trailers implied the story would be about, because it’s about so much more and without spoiling anything for the would-be watcher, you’re in for a wild ride! The special effects, lighting, and cinematography absolutely give the film a very unique look and feel and it becomes immersive, uncomfortable, and down right shocking all the way until the credits roll. A huge factor for these types of movies is the look of the aliens themselves. Do they look like a drugged out psychedelic acid trip of an original never-before-seen new type of alien? Or, do they look like the aliens that are reported by true UFO witnesses, or by those that claim to have had closed encounters with ‘The Grays?” For a film titled ‘Extraterrestrial’ they had to be the embodiment of dreaded memories and nightmares, and these “grays” came to haunt your dreams.
4. Dark Skies (2013)
I personally really enjoy this film as they obviously took the time to research The UFO Phenomenon, its history, and tropes. For those that are self proclaimed UFOlogists like myself, you will recognize many story aspects and events that have been reported about from actual people throughout the years involving alien abductions. Whether you believe it or not, ‘Dark Skies’ is riddled with possible true account details intertwined in a fictional script about a modern suburban family going through hard times, as so many of us have in recent years, mostly due to the recession. The highly identifiable Keri Russell, from the hit show ‘The Americans’, plays the real estate agent mother of the Barrett family, alongside the fun to see Josh Hamilton from the life scaring 1993 film ‘Alive’ inspired by the events of the Uruguayan rugby team that crashed in the Andes Mountains in 1972. The film follows the parents of two boys as they try to find new jobs, sell an old house, all while mysterious events keep happening to them all. The youngest of the two sons, Sam Barrett (played by Kadan Rockett), seems to be the focus of the strange episodes who is close-ish with his older brother Jesse Barrett (played by Dakota Goyo).
The story is a slow burn that likes to crank up the plot with eerie night time scenes that progressively get weirder and weirder until they are under a full scale attack from beings not of this planet. I really enjoy the attention to detail, especially the big scene with an all time favorite of mine, J.K. Simmons, that delivers most of the explanations and exposition to what has been happening to our faithful heroes. I only really have a couple of issues with this almost perfect alien abduction movie, first of which being that the aliens or “grays” look like dark bluish blackish skinny old men or like Lego Bionicles from the early 2000s. The other thing that I wish could have been changed is two of the weird incidents aren’t really related to the alien phenomenon and kind of take you out of it enough to notice. Other than those two issues, I highly recommend adding this to your watchlist and turning off all the lights, cuddling warmly next to a loved one, and prepare to be disturbed and paranoid for one hour and thirty seven minutes of alien awesomeness.
3. The 4th Kind (2009)
This movie was alluded to as a would-be terrifying and brutal attack on the senses, and for the most part it is. It was advertised as a “true story” with found footage clips connected with re-enactment scenes starring well known actors including Milla Jovovich as our hero Dr. Abbey Tyler, Will Patton as the bitter Sheriff August, and my favorite Elias Koteas as the skeptical Dr. Abel Campos (but he’ll always be Casey Jones from TMNT to me).
Sadly, and despite what you were led to believe, it is not a true story. The director Olatunde Osunsanmi has since come out publicly that the movie is inspired by some true events, but it’s a work of fiction, and a great attempt to follow in the footsteps of movies like ‘The Blair Witch Project’ and ‘Cannibal Holocaust.’ We are introduced to the supposed real Dr. Abbey Tyler, played by Charlotte Milchard, who is being interviewed about her experiences and story that took place in Nome, Alaska. We then bounce around from footage from the REAL Dr. Tyler, sheriff’s dash cam footage, the fake interview with the “real” Dr. Tyler, and the rest are the reenacted scenes with our aforementioned actors. There are also some audio recordings that are analyzed, an introduction and ending by Milla Jovovich and Olatunde Osunsanmi, and during the end credits they play actual 911 call recordings from real people reporting lights in the sky or UFOs. It seems like a lot to unpack, but the slow paced storyline does a great job of weaving it all together in a very coherent and engaging script. Most of the action comes from patients of Dr. Tyler agrees to be hypnotized to try and uncover the source of everyone’s sleeping problems and mass hallucinations of waking up and seeing an owl at night. The reactions of the patients confronting their repressed memories is explosive and horrifying. The actors in the old recordings and the Hollywood dramatized shots all depict the same character’s feelings and expressions in ways that will leave you permanently imprinted by the faces and screams they produce.
Not wanting to spoil anything further in this near-perfect alien movie, I will say that this movie had the opportunity of becoming the all time greatest alien encounter movie ever made but fumbled the ball at the end zone. SPOILER ALERT, they never show the aliens, ever. You only get brief images of shapeless dark figures, or very long and uncomfortable shots of white owls. That’s it. If they just would have put in that extra measure of witnesses account looking extraterrestrial realism and absolute horror, this movie would have a warning label on it, but that’s not what we got. It’s like right when you’re about to see anything UFO phenomenon related, they cut to another shot or the camera glitches out like crazy. Come on Hollywood, just show it to us! That’s why everyone watched this movie in the first place, to have an actual ‘Close Encounter of The Fourth Kind’ and see some damned aliens and UFOs! They bring you right to the edge then don’t deliver, but this movie is still responsible for inspiring many nightmares and phobias.
2. Fire in the Sky (1993)
I remember first watching the movie trailer for this film in 1993 and I was so terrified, amazed, and intrigued that I knew that I just had to see it. However, I didn’t get to see it right away due to family issues, but when I did finally get to see it I was so hyped up and beaming with excitement. It begins with creepy music and shows shots of being outside at night but you just know that something is coming around the corner, and you’d be right. An old white four door truck speeds through a dirt road in the woods at night without explanation of what’s happening. The truck makes it to a bar and everyone gets out and says that they need to call the police and report what just happened to them, and their missing party. The local sheriff arrives and listens to their story and it’s inconceivable and fantastical that they have to bring more people in to help dissect the situation. What unfolds are the events that led up to the beginning of the movie and what happened to Travis, and how it heavily impacted all of their lives, forever.
This movie is a loose adaptation of the Travis Walton abduction story that occurred on November 5, 1975 while thinning the woods on government property outside of Snowflake, Arizona. Probably about half of it is a pretty accurate representation of the “true events” that happened to Travis and his co-workers. The scenes that happen inside of the spaceship however are a complete farce and were created by the director of the film, Robert Lieberman, but are still extremely frightening and are what most people remember and dread about watching this beloved treasure. Travis Walton has told his story ever since 1975 for newspapers, books, talk shows, multiple documentaries, and nowadays podcasts and has never deviated from the original horrifying tale. Regardless, the scene in the movie is pure nightmare fuel. It scared me so bad that I couldn’t watch the movie again for many years in fear of that one scene. In retrospect, it’s not so bad nowadays and I have grown quite fond of this film despite my fears.
The full cast are an absolute goldmine and it’s amazing to see who makes appearances to help in the story telling. D. B. Sweeney (Lonesome Dove, Spawn) plays Travis Walton but sadly without the well-known trademark Travis Walton mustache. His best friend and boss while working is played by the amazing Robert Patrick as Mike Rogers, best known as the T-1000 in ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ and of course Johnny Cash’s dad in ‘Walk The Line.’ They are also joined by the very memorable James Garner (RIP) from ‘The Notebook’ fame and from one of my personal favorites, ‘Streets of Laredo’, the official sequel to the best western ever made ‘Lonesome Dove.’ Be on the lookout for the actual Travis Walton as a walk-on extra as a town member in the movie too! Despite how they changed the details of events inside of the UFO entirely, it would have been nice to have seen it depicted in the movie as reported by Travis. But, what we did get out of this movie is still a near masterpiece and will leave you at night sleeping with a light on.
-Night Skies (2007)
I absolutely enjoy this gem, regardless of how low budget it is and with subpar acting it’s a fun installment to alien abduction horror movies. It takes place on the same night as the now famous “Phoenix Lights” in Arizona and Nevada on March 13, 1997. It follows your basic over privileged suburban older teenagersges in an RV driving through Arizona until they encounter a man, then all hell breaks loose. The aliens are hard to see at times but will definitely give you a fright and a few jump scares.
-Alien Abduction (2014)
I originally stumbled across this found footage horror film on Netflix and I found it quite formidable and very freaky. The aliens are so unique but familiar that they stay as embedded images in your brain for a while. After a second watch they were much more tolerable, but still unsettling. ‘Alien Abduction’ follows a family on a road trip through the Brown Mountains in North Carolina while filming only relevant events on a camcorder, and what ensues will make you not want to go camping, ever. The cast is pretty unrecognizable and the acting is of the high school play variety, but it still all comes together in the end as a warning to would-be travelers wanting to explore the Brown Mountains.
-Area 51 (2015)
This film will take you for a ride through the lens of the character’s cell phones as they try to break into Area 51 in the Nevada desert, also known as Homey Airport or Groom Lake. I really don’t want to spoil this one either, but the aliens are an absolute horror, so I had to look away. You can tell this was like a weekend project or something by the creators, but then around the end they have some pretty amazing set designs. It’s like a UFO phenomenon alien abduction version of ‘The Blair Witch Project,’ but without all of the screaming and no lost map.
Speaking of ‘Blair Witch’, its director Eduardo Sánchez also wrote and directed this baby, and it’s well worth multiple viewings as well. About the only actor that anyone would notice would be Brad William Henke (RIP) from modern classics such as ‘Choke’, ‘Orange is the New Black’, ‘Dexter’, and ‘Fury.’ It first comes off as a straight to truck stop DVD bin movie, then takes a hard left turn and cranks it up to eleven as the shit hits the fan. The alien design is like something from an acid and mushroom fueled nightmarish hallucination. The originality of the entire story is what makes it such a welcomed piece of work, but points get taken off for some of the corniness, budget, and acting decisions.
-Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
‘Close Encounters’ is an absolute classic and one of the first pictures about the alien and UFO phenomenon and a list of this topic can’t be told without including it, but I do have a couple of gripes. First of all, all the aliens are super fake but are still somehow unsettling to see. The movie has that trademark Steven Spielberg wholesomeness and kid like wonder to it but with the occasional scary or suspenseful scenes and jump scares. Briefly it’s about multiple people experiencing strange lights and UFOs that turns into an obsession about finding a place they are being called to. Most people know of this movie or probably have seen it, and it is also allegedly based on non-fiction as well. If you’re interested in the so-called “true events” it is believed to have actually happened at the Holloman Air Force Base here in New Mexico, and the local gossip is that someone in reality has film footage of the UFO landing near Alamogordo, New Mexico.
1. Communion (1989)
And finally, we arrive together at the crescendo. This absolutely hands-down has to be the king of all alien abduction movies ever made. I remember seeing the trailer for it sometime in 1989, around the same time I found out about the Roswell crash, but this wasn’t an in-theater movie trailer, they were advertising that it was going to air on television very soon, and I knew that I could not miss it. There was something so mysterious and shocking at the same time that I assumed that it would be scary, but I was naive and ignorant to the everlasting effects that it would have for the rest of my life.
There’s a particular shot that was in the trailer of a big eyed alien peeking from the left side of an open door that I couldn’t stop thinking about, to this day. My mom and step-dad would often watch TV with me at night and I knew as long as they were there behind me protecting me that I would be safe and could make it through the film. The opening shot is of New York City at night along with the backdrop of the sky overflowing with bright stars, accompanied by some epic electric guitar being played over the lingering shot of the city. Fun side note, Eric Clapton wrote and performed all of the guitar score for the movie! Moving forward we find Christopher Walken, the GOAT of acting in his own unique style, is playing the star of the movie, and the writer of the series of ‘Communion’ books. Once again, this movie is also allegedly based on the “true events’ of the writer, Whitley Strieber in the 1980s. Before that he was a not too well known author trying to come up with the next best thing that would get him another book published. Spoiler alert, he finds the inspiration, or better yet it finds him! Much debate is brought up if Whitley Strieber just made it all up, or if he and his family truly did encounter something in their winter cabin in the forest and possibly more taking place later as well.
I also don’t want to give much away about the holy grail of alien movies, but a few things do need to be discussed to paint the appropriate picture of its greatness. Firstly, the aesthetic, look, feel, and tone of the movie are what pull you in and never let you go. Even scenes during the day have this haunting hue to them that invoke feelings of danger and dread. The cinematography, although dated, gives it a personal and unique atmosphere that will hypnotize all viewers. Combined with the set designs, music, wardrobe, fashion choices, and personality of the feature you are engulfed and entranced by the entire experience. After getting acquainted with the star with his friends and family, we see that they were planning to have a dinner that is ruined due to it burning in the oven, then they proceed to drive from the city into the country where Whitley owns a large cabin that becomes the focus of the very traumatizing occurrences. In short, there are about four or five major alien encounters that will cause you to sleep with the doors and windows closed for your remaining years, or that’s just what happened to me. I used to believe that at any second an alien would peek its head from the side of a door or wall and I’d be helpless to stop them, unless I closed all the doors and windows! I sometimes still think I see something poking out from the corner of my eye, but that’s just old age getting to me. As the movie progressed and I’d become frightened, I’d look behind me to see if my mom and step dad were still there and they were gone! I had to trek the rest of the way alone through this torment.
Christopher Walken gives a remarkable yet sometimes comedic performance that will have you quoting all of his dialog. He is accompanied by the amazing actress Lindsay Crouse known from multiple TV shows, but mainly from the absolute disappointment that was ‘The Arrival’ (1996) with Charlie Sheen. Walken’s acting came into question by the actual Whitley Strieber as he complained that Walken was playing him too eccentric and crazy, in which Walken simply replied “If the shoe fits.” Whether or not the basis for the book and movie is true or not, it still provides common tropes and well-known aspects of commonplace details in alien abductions and UFO reports and stories such how humans are taken, brought upon a ship, examined and experimented on, and brought back home with the person experience memory loss and unknown marks on the body. Whitley absolutely did his homework or could have witnessed it for himself but the real proof is in the pudding. I’ve never actually read the book, even though I found it for free at our local library but the cover scares me so bad that I refuse to open the book. However, I have seen a magnitude of movies, documentaries, and read many books on the alien experience and ‘Communion’ resonates with genuine articles that are often repeated and mirrored from everyday people’s unbelievable happenings.
One difference is that we are introduced to two different types of aliens; the typical grays with large heads and eyes with spindly bodies except these are pink and can somehow float, and the others are the “blue doctors” that resemble some type of troll and are almost as unsettling and terrifying as the pink ones. The abduction scenes alone will almost guarantee some sleepless nights for quite some time, unless you can brave through it and observe how pretty dated it is now. Even if you’re not as traumatized as I was over thirty years ago, this movie is impossible to forget from its terror-inducing practical effects and jump scares to its sometimes silly and fun scenes with Walken or dancing aliens. You can add this to your watchlist for free on multiple streaming sites.