Throughout our existence, mankind’s wondered if there are other life forms beyond our planet. Knowing if we are alone in this vast universe is one of the most important scientific questions of anyone’s lifetime. Throughout cinema history, we have seen plenty of stories examine humans going out to the vast distances of space to get answers. But we’ve also seen it the other way around, where aliens have come to our plant. With this, there’s been many about alien invasions and, the subject of this top ten, alien abductions.
A traditional alien abduction stems from the idea of aliens come down and snatching humans to experiment on before returning them to Earth. But as filmmaking and storytelling have expanded, so have the concept and rules involving alien abductions depictions on the big screen. With this, there were plenty of titles to choose from to make the list below.
10. Horse Girl (2020)
dir. Jeff Baena
While Jeff Banea’s “Horse Girl“ was just released, it’s strong enough to make this list already. Alison Brie plays Sarah, a shy woman who regularly visits her beloved childhood horse in her spare time. After smoking some weed with her roommate, she has a weird dream where she is laying in a while room with two beings in the background. Throughout “Horse Girl,” we realize Sarah’s dreams are about a recently experienced alien abduction. While she seems unhinged to everyone in her life, Sarah discovers the truth behind her dreams and how they tie into her relationship with her deceased mother. Built off the back of Brie’s dynamite performance, you can check out “Horse Girl” on Netflix right now and see just how great it is.
9. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
dir. James Gunn
8. Galaxy Quest (1999)
dir. Dean Parisot
In 1999, Dean Parisot’s “Galaxy Quest“ was able to balance the nostalgia with satirical comedic in a send-up to classic sci-fi shows. It follows the cast of a cult television program, who are abducted by real-life aliens, in an attempt to end a galactic conflict. The members of the fictional space team are stunned when they learn their captures believe their show is real. With no choice but to help, they end up using their episodic experience to guide their decision making. In a wonderful commentary on fan’s obsession with pop culture from our past, “Galaxy Quest” also delivers hysterical performances from Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and the late Alan Rickman. It’s one of the most original space comedies of all time.
7. Independence Day (1996)
dir. Roland Emmerich
One of the biggest blockbusters of the 1990s was Roland Emmerich’s alien action extravaganza “Independence Day.” Mixing mind-blowing specials effects with cheesy dialogue, this invasion flick has just about everything you could want. But beyond the invasion, is also includes the ideas of these aliens abducting humans before their arrival on screen. Mostly involving Randy Quaid’s Russell Casse, this former military pilot turn alcoholic feels vindicated when the aliens arrive because he believes he was abducted 10 years before. One of his best moments comes when Casse confronts the enemy in the final battle, bringing his story to a beautifully campy conclusion. You have to everything on screen with a giant grain of salt but once you get into it, “Independence Day” is flat out fun.
6. Mysterious Skin (2004)
dir. Gregg Araki
When a traumatic experience happens to an individual, they can become suppressed memories so the person doesn’t have to relive them. In “Mysterious Skin,” Brady Corbet’s Brian and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Neil are boyhood friends tied together through two lifechanging events from the summer of 1981. Neil was sexually assaulted by the boy’s baseball coach but Brady’s event is blurry. He knocks out, waking up with a bloody nose and no memory of what happens. This leads him to believe he was abducted by aliens. As the boys grow up, and cross paths again, the true events behind Brady’s event play out with a heartbreaker realization leading to the friend’s embracing. Director Gregg Araki delivers a deeply profound case study about how to mask the pain you don’t really want to remember.
5. Arrival (2016)
dir. Denis Villeneuve
We’ve seen stories about forceful abductions talked about on this list, so it would make sense to talk about voluntary ones as well. When alien ships arrive around the world in Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival,” they openly allow humans to come onto their crafts. Moreover, they let Amy Adam’s Louise Banks come and examine their language to better understand the creatures’ purpose. Throughout her time studying their symbols, she discovers a key connection she has with the aliens. With this information, Louise makes an ultimate sacrifice to her future in order to save the world. In the end, she learns from the aliens how to piece back together with the world, and bring hope back into her life as well. By doing this, “Arrival” becomes a role reversal, with the humans studying the aliens rather than in the traditional sense we’ve seen many times before.
4. Under the Skin (2013)
dir. Jonathan Glazer
Jonathan Glazer’s “Under the Skin“ is one of the most tantalizing theatrical experiences of the Millenium. On the streets of Glasgow, we encounter an alien disguised as Scarlett Johansson, who is abducting and seducing various men. When she gets them alone, she turns them into nothing, leaving them into an endless void. As the alien carries on her mission, she starts to intrigue itself in the regularities of human life. By doing this, she realizes what she is doing might be wrong. Glazer uses this alien extraction to explore the ramifications of her actions. He also examines the gross nature of men and how they treat women in our modern world. Overall, “Under the Skin” is a darkly elegant alien abduction tale with one of the best performances of Johansson’s career.
3. The Thing (1982)
dir. John Carpenter
Beyond an alien abduction to a spacecraft, we’ve also seen aliens abduct and consume the life they have stolen. In John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” we met a group of researchers trying to survive an attack from an extrastriatal parasite looking to consume them. One by one, the thing takes a member of the group. It terminates them and becomes an evil copy of the deceased. By doing this, our heroes learn they can’t trust one another, leading the group to fight themselves and the thing. It’s the most sinister abduction on this list, considering you never know when the thing is coming or who it has taken the form of. Therefore, the nervous psychological effects this has on the group leads to truly terrifying entertainment. Combine this wonderfully twisted story with a haunting original score from Ennio Morricone, “The Thing” is an all-time horror classic.
2. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
dir. Don Siegel
Logn before any of the previous entries on our list, Don Siegel’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers“ was the premier alien abduction picture. While 1953’s “Invaders from Mars” set the tone for the alien abduction topic, this story about a town of people being replaces by emotionless replicas elevated everything. Though the humans aren’t taken to a mothership, they are studied from afar and their likeness is used to substitute them once the alien creatures have fully formed. Much like “The Thing,” our protagonists are never able to tell if who they are dealing with. “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” had two remakes, but nothing beats the 1956’s originality and pure terror.
1. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
dir. Steven Spielberg
From the inception of this list, Steven Speilberg‘s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” had to be number one. After experiencing a personal encounter with a UFO, Richard Dreyfuss’s Roy Neary life begins to change, leading to him uncovering the truth about Earth’s visitors. But Roy isn’t the only one effect by the aliens arrive, given we see multiple interactions, including an alien abduction of a small child on a farm. But as sci-fi drama plays out, the more we understand they aren’t here for destruction, they are here to make contact with us. The aliens come in peace and want to learn about us as much as we want to learn about them.
As questionable as Roy’s final decision to leave his family is, it fits within the idea of basic human curiosity. With an elegant score from John Williams, this is one of the many Speilberg masterpieces you can’t wait to watch again when it’s over.
What are your favorite movies about alien abductions? Let us know in the comments below!
D.B. Sweeney laying on the bed, and exploring the ship is absolutely terrifying.