If you’re a fan of alien movies, the 2000s were your golden age. After the campy Cold War undertones of alien movies in the 1950s and 1960s introduced movie audiences to the idea of watching an invasion from outer space, the idea languished for a few decades before making a strong comeback in the 1990s. There were thrillers, summer blockbusters, even comedies, everything an alien enthusiast could possibly want. This led to a decade when alien movies could be much more than just big budget thrillers, but instead creep into all genres.
To understand the wave of alien movies in the 2000s, it’s best to look back a decade and understand how the movement got started. The 1990s were a popular time for alien blockbusters and produced what is considered one of the greatest alien movies, Independence Day. This 1996 blockbuster ended up as the fourth highest grossing movie of the decade and led to a spate of science-fiction action blockbusters that continued through into the next decade.
Independence Day had all the prototypical aspects of an alien invasion thriller—large-scale battles, giant humanoid aliens and a wave of destruction on earth. Sure, it may have had some plot holes—like how did Jeff Goldblum draw up a computer virus using a Macintosh laptop that could outsmart an alien race who mastered intergalactic travel—but its booming popularity got audiences ready for other alien films. The next summer Men in Black was released, and for the remainder of the decade alien films started to show up in all genres. Starship Troopers, released in 1997, took the genre outside of earth to show humans fighting battles in space, and Galaxy Quest put a hilarious spin on alien films in 1999.
This all leads to the 2000s, which saw a boom in alien films. Emboldened by the critical and commercial success of the 1990s blockbusters, filmmakers had the freedom to explore the genre in a number of new ways. The films were spread out so widely it can be difficult to determine the best, but a few stand out. There were blockbusters like the first two installations of the Transformers series, comedies like Evolution and even artistic films like District 9.
Films also contained many of the characteristics popular with the 1990s alien films. The invading force in M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs also had a glaring weakness humans exploited to defeat them, only this time instead of susceptibility to a simple computer virus it was vulnerability to water.
The 2000s saw what a film that is not only the highest grossing alien movie, but the highest grossing film of any kind—Avatar Released in 2009, this film tells the story of a group modeled after the American armed forces who are trying to invade an alien planet for its resources. A slight twist on the alien invasion theme, this movie is sympathetic to the aliens as they fight off their human invaders.
This decade also was host to the rebirth of one of the classics of the alien genre. Star Trek was one of the first mainstream television shows to deal with alien adventures, all with its classic style of addressing modern societal issues through the stories, and in 2009 the series was rebooted. The film, the eleventh in the Star Trek movie series, took a step back to explore how the crew of the Enterprise got their start.
Many alien movie series had success with new installations in the 2000s. The final two episodes of the Star Wars series were released during this decade, which led the way for several follow-ups and even cartoons based on the series. There also two new movies in the Alien series—both featuring the alien facing off with Predator—and a remake of the radio classic War of the Worlds.
Alien films weren’t limited to live action during the decade. Animated films like 2009’s Monsters vs. Aliens proved that alien movies could survive well in the children’s genre, making more than $380 million in total box office sales. WALL-E, released in 2008, also saw commercial and critical success as a family film set in outer space.
Denise Hill is an avid blogger for NetQin, writing on a variety of topics!
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