10. 'The Abyss' (1989)
When an American submarine crashes miles below the ocean surface, a group of underwater oil rig workers stand between a demented Navy SEAL and nuclear war with Russia. Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio soon realize they are not alone at Earth's deepest depths. This unique underwater adventure is commonly overlooked both as a science fiction masterpiece and a James Cameron classic.
9. 'Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn' (1982)
'Star Trek' represents the backbone of science fiction in American culture, and this is the finest example in the immense 'Starfleet' library. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy were born to play Kirk and Spock, and Ricardo Montalban's performance is the most memorable of any villain in the series. Director Nicholas Meyer is often credited with saving the franchise after an over-budgeted first film. Nine sequels and four TV series later, this film is the reason the franchise continues to live long and prosper.
8. 'Men in Black'(1997)
Hot-shot New York City cop Will Smith is recruited by the deadpan Tommy Lee Jones into an agency responsible for policing alien activity on planet Earth. Now Smith must adapt to a new job in the city he thought he knew and partner with Jones to save the world from giant alien bugs. This is the only movie on the list that was made in the '90s, Barry Sonnenfeld cleverly incorporates 1950's comic conspiracy into this funny, intelligent blockbuster. Jones is hilarious and Smith helps us forget his role in that other alien invasion movie (wish we had a memory eliminator flash for that).
7. 'E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial' (1982)
It's not the cleverest or most groundbreaking alien film and it doesn't even represent Steven Spielberg's finest work in the genre. But three decades later, there's still a charming quality about the small leathery alien and his young human companion Elliot (Henry Thomas). Winner of four of the nine Oscars for which it was nominated, 'E.T.' is undeniably one of the most beloved alien stories ever told.
6. '2001: A Space Odyssey' (1968)
The oldest movie on the list, this space opera is considered the foundation for modern sci-fi epics. Its legendary musical score and stunning visuals are pleasantly overwhelming. The Discovery One spaceship computer, HAL 9000 (Douglas Rain), is a chilling icon in a film slightly lacking in dramatic appeal. Stanley Kubrick was ahead of his time visually and conceptually. It's a film with incredible pop-culture longevity. Just try watching the opening credits without getting chills.
5. 'Spaceballs' (1987)
Take Mel Brooks, a flying Winnebago and a nerd in an absurdly large Darth Vader helmet and you've got the greatest parody film ever made. You don't need to see 'Star Wars,' 'Aliens' or 'Star Trek' to think this is funny, but if you enjoy those films, you must love this one. Bill Pullman excels as the Luke Skywalker/Han Solo hybrid space bum, but the true genius here is the hilarity at the expense of the movie industry itself. Watch it again and again. And change the combination on my luggage!
4. 'District 9' (2009)
The most brilliant alien movie post-2000, Neill Blomkamp's 'District 9' turns Johannesburg, South Africa, into a gritty alien internment camp where unruly "prawns" have overstayed their welcome. Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley), son-in-law of a corrupt executive, is chosen to lead the relocation of the aliens. Its raw documentary style and socially relevant plotline, plus a wide-open ending screams "next great saga."
3. 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' (1977)
Now this is what alien movies are supposed to be. Where '2001: A Space Odyssey' and 'E.T.' are lacking, this film delivers big time. Combine captivating performances by Richard Dreyfuss and Melinda Dillon, a musical score by the incredible John Williams and the confirmation of all your conspiracy theories. What you get is Steven Spielberg's most captivating alien encounter.
2. 'Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back' (1977)
Irvin Kershner directs the 'Star Wars' universe to its most dramatic, action-packed episode. We're introduced to the beloved Yoda (Frank Oz), and gasp at the greatest plot twist in movie history. Harrison Ford sweats charisma from beginning to end, even after he's frozen in carbonite. The only question here is, why couldn't the next four films come anywhere close to this compelling chapter?
1. 'Aliens' (1986)
The James Cameron sequel to Ridley Scott's terrifying original is the benchmark for which all other alien movies are measured. The violence is unrelenting, and we mean that in the best possible way. Sigourney Weaver is a feminist Rambo, resulting in her Oscar nomination for best actress. The film completely outshines its prequel, similar to Cameron's 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day.' 'Aliens' is the crowning offspring at the peak of the genre's popularity. Maybe in space no one can hear you scream, but they sure can in your living room.