The new movie Arrival is about, funnily enough, an arrival. Of aliens, to be precise, in the form of a few floating black oblongs hovering around the globe. Predictably, it all goes a bit pear-shaped from there, as Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner rush to figure out who the aliens are and what they want, while the world’s politicians and generals inch ever closer to their respective Big Red Buttons to make the whole problem go away.
The whole situation probably could have been solved a lot quicker if everyone had just watched a few more sci-fi films because this certainly isn’t the first time aliens have arrived on earth.
The big granddaddy of the first encounter movies. Steven Spielberg‘s classic skips explosions and fight scenes in favor of family drama and a now-iconic sequence of musical tones. It’s a bit weird, it’s a bit thought-provoking, and it’s still totally mesmerising.
Even so, Close Encounters isn’t Spielberg’s most famous alien encounter – that honor falls to E.T. (sorry, not you War of the Worlds). There’s not much to say about this one that hasn’t been said: it’s adorable, it’s heartwarming, it’ll leave you in a pile of tears, and it’s just one of many films on this list that remind us that whatever happens when aliens first turn up, the government will probably find a way to screw it up.
Except this is one exception to that rule – here the instinct to assume aliens are hostile might not be so dangerous after all. Then again, when they say ‘hello’ by blowing up the White House, it’s a pretty tough signal to misinterpret.
The first contact movie of choice for anyone who likes a bit of religious commentary with their science fiction. With it’s focus on international cooperation and efforts to understand the aliens’ communication, this is about as close to Arrival as you can get without, y’know, watching Arrival. But you should probably just watch them both.
OK, bear with me. This is one of the good Star Trek films, and it’s also one you can watch and enjoy without a few decades of Trek lore stuffed into your head. It has time travel, Borg, and the holodeck, and is a welcome reminder that sometimes meeting aliens can actually end really well for us.
2001 doesn’t involve first contact in the traditional sense, but whatever’s going on in the trippy final 20 minutes of the film, I’m pretty sure aliens are involved. It also just so happens to be one of the finest sci-fi films ever made, aliens or not.
7. District 9
A solid recent entry in the ‘humans are awful and screw everything up’ category of first contact films. Aliens come to earth, so we segregate them into squalid slums, give them an insulting nickname, and re-live the worst of our racist history. Hooray!