Throwback Thursday: four alien movies to watch

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John Boyega headlines "Attack the Block" in his pre-Stormtrooper days.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Optimum Releasing

While humanity has yet to encounter alien life, extraterrestrials have come to Earth countless times on the big screen. The Daily Texan suggests you check out four of these movies that are out of this world.

“Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977)

The most optimistic picture on this list, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” is one of Steven Spielberg’s gentlest works. The first contact between mankind and the grey-bodied aliens of “Close Encounters” is heralded not by gunfire, but by music — both species communicate using a simple melody that signifies their mutual desire for peace.

The film’s central figure is Roy (Richard Dreyfuss), an electrician who develops an obsession with UFOs after encountering one on the road. Subliminal images of the Devils Tower national monument in Wyoming soon plague his mind, and he realizes the aliens are going to land there. Drawn to the mountain, Roy teams up with Jillian (Melinda Dillon), whose son has been abducted by the aliens, and they head toward the site.

“Close Encounters” is an awe-inspiring movie that doesn’t bask in a whirlwind of special effects action. It instead calls upon us to look to the stars with wonder and see a bright, hopeful future ahead.

“Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1978 remake)

Paranoia runs rampant in this chilling horror picture. Set in San Francisco, “Invasion” is about a health inspector (Donald Sutherland) who mounts a desperate escape from alien organisms called  “pod people” with his colleagues and friends. But the aliens take on human forms, replacing the characters one by one, and soon anyone could be a traitor in their midst.

“Invasion of the Body Snatchers” preys on the deep-seeded fear of lost identity. The pod people lack emotion and emit an inhuman cry whenever they find a person who has not yet been replaced. They are hidden in plain sight and constantly watching. As “Invasion” drives toward its dark and disturbing finale, humanity’s defeat seems inevitable. This oppressing and hopeless picture suffocates its characters, as well as its audience.

“Super 8” (2011)

J.J. Abrams’ loving homage to Spielberg is a fantastic movie in its own right. A nostalgic throwback to the ‘80s, “Super 8” is a coming-of-age story that features an alien who terrorizes a small town.

The main character is young Joe (Joel Courtney), whose mother has recently died and whose father has difficulty connecting with him. When the alien kidnaps his crush, Alice (Elle Fanning), Joe and his friends set out to save her.  

“Super 8” is a heartfelt tale with warmth, humor and romance. Its closing scene is one of Abrams’ finest moments as a filmmaker, and it delivers an emotional truth to cap off a wonderful movie.

“Attack the Block” (2011)

Before John Boyega became a Stormtrooper, he was a gangster in “Attack the Block,” a satirical comedy about an alien invasion in inner-city London. Boyega plays the leader of a small gang that joins forces with a nurse (Jodie Whittaker) they’ve just mugged. The unlikely team must band together and fend off their extraterrestrial attackers.

“Attack the Block” feels like a rougher reimagining of “Shaun of the Dead,” oozing with satire and wit as its characters barrel through a mayhem-filled night, boisterous and charming from beginning to end. The aliens themselves are black, furry creatures with gigantic mouths. For mindless eating machines, they’re actually a little cute. Too bad watching the good guys cut them down is oh-so fun.