In the final days of 2017, a curtain was pulled back from a closely guarded American intelligence secret: Aliens exist! The truth is out there! It’s a cause for celebration.
Today, July 2nd, marks the first World UFO Day since this confirmation of life beyond our planet, but we at Fandor have always known that aliens existed—at least, on-screen. Movies like John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place, the Alien franchise, and Spielberg’s E.T.the Extra-Terrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind have imagined and reimagined what extraterrestrials look like, sound like, and whether or not they subsist on a steady diet of Reese’s Pieces. However, documentaries such as Paul Vester’s Abductees and Adam and Andrew Grays’ The White Mountain Abduction, both available on Fandor right now, have also “probed” the lives of people who’ve been lucky enough—or unlucky enough—to encounter an alien outside of a multiplex.
So in honor of this very important World UFO Day, here are some of our other go-to movies about interplanetary visitors—for all of you believers out there.
Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952) – directed by Fred Bannon
Post-WWII, pre-Cold War UFO films tend to indulge the era’s anxieties about the domestic invasion and national impotence, often to comic effect. In Zombies of the Stratosphere, the all-American hero Larry Martin (Judd Holdren) must prevent Martians from blowing up the Earth with a weapon of the planet’s own creation: the H-bomb. At a cool thirteen minutes each, this serial’s twelve episodes are the ideal length for podcast aficionados. Fans of Star Trek will also enjoy Leonard Nimoy’s early appearance as a militant Martian.
Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) – directed by Ed Wood
For its modest set, stodgy dialogue, and unintentionally comical graveyard scenes, the indie sci-fi film Plan 9 From Outer Space was, at one point at least, considered “the worst film ever made.” In our book, this automatically makes it a must-see. Unlike Zombies of the Stratosphere, the Martians in Plan 9 are pacifists who wish to save people from their race’s own growing arsenal of bombs. How do they rescue humans from themselves? By resurrecting the dead in order to kill the misguided living, of course! Luckily, one of the resurrected just so happens to be Vampira actress Maila Nurmi.
Abductees (1995) – directed by Paul Vester
Told through a mix of found footage, original animation, and black and white interviews, Abductees recounts the stories of several people who claim to have been stolen away for medical experimentation by UFOs. Passionate and, at times, very troubled, this mini-documentary’s subjects go into great detail about the appearance and behavior of the aliens who beamed them up against their will.
Visit From Outer Space (1998) – directed by Sietske Tjallingii
In this short film, two tiny Martians banter back and forth in their volleyball-sized spaceship as they try to navigate modern-day Amsterdam’s bustling streets at twilight. A tribute to the low-budget Hollywood horror sci-fi master who directed Plan 9, Visit From Outer Space leaves you craving more of Tjallingii’s resourceful puppetry, wit, and appreciation for “bad movies.”
Waiting for NESARA (2006) – directed by Zeb Haradon
At the moment between 9/11 and the Iraq War, a group of middle-aged ex-Mormons in Salt Lake City have fallen under the spell of the Dove of Oneness, a purported government informant who asserts that US leaders fabricated the 2001 domestic terror attacks as a way to subvert NESARA, the arrival of an extraterrestrial Jesus scheduled to replace President Bush that same day.
Conspiracy theories around 9/11 are a dime a dozen, but the one featured in this documentary is a tier above the rest. Waiting for NESARA doesn’t feature subjects who dispute the messianic belief system at hand, and as a result, it’s the viewer—not them—who becomes the paranoid outsider. To listen to ordinary Salt Lake City denizens, cloistered in a KFC dining room, speak with total sincerity about George W. Bush possessing “reptilian DNA” is an eerie reminder of Comet Ping-Pong and QAnon—that no one is exempt from adopting an unhinged dogma.
The White Mountain Abduction (2009) – directed by Adam and Andrew Gray
The most frightening alien abduction stories often come from either the people leading the banalest of lives or those who are no longer around to discuss the experience—and Barney and Betty Hill fall into both categories. The Hills claimed to have been abducted from their home in small-town New Hampshire on an evening in 1961, and The White Mountain Abduction follows their niece as she revisits the case, seeks new forensic evidence, and recounts the incident’s disturbing aftermath.
Watch Now: Every movie on this list! Bring your popcorn and your tinfoil hat.