This is a historic summer for extraterrestrial enthusiasts as three former military officials testified before congress that the United States government has been withholding evidence of UFOs (now known as unidentified aerial phenomena or UAPs) and aliens. The most shocking information to come out of the testimony is that we have allegedly already captured “nonhuman biological matter”. Elected officials from both sides of the aisle said that whistleblower’s testimony is important as the existence of aliens is a potential threat to national security.
Humans have been fascinated with the idea of life existing on other planets for as long as we have been looking up at the sky. This has been reflected in the stories we tell through film since sci-fi adventure film A Trip to the Moon (1902), inspired by Jules Verne’s novel From the Earth to the Moon. The number of movies about aliens increased dramatically in the 1950s when the US and the USSR began a “space race” which resulted in the Soviet Union successfully launching a satellite (Sputnik) in 1957, the Soviet Union achieving the first manned spaceflight in 1961 and the United States’ moon landing in 1969.
Modern films and television shows about aliens have centered around government coverups and conspiracies. Some of the biggest contributors to our current collective thinking around UFOs and aliens come from the 90s blockbuster Independence Day (1996) and the hit sci-fi drama series The X-Files (1993-2002, 2016-2018). Both portrayed the United States government as denying the existence of alien life to the public while secretly holding evidence to the contrary.
For viewers wishing to immerse themselves in alien fiction while it’s still potentially fiction, this list is a roundup of scary alien/UFO/UAP movies and shows streaming in August 2023.
Some of the creepiest alien stories ever told appeared on this iconic long-running mystery documentary series. Streaming on Tubi, the Unsolved Mysteries seasons are broken out by whether they are hosted by Robert Stack or Dennis Farina. The most recent episodes of the series are streaming on Netflix.
The best alien/UFO episodes of Unsolved Mysteries are:
- Season 2, episode 1 has a two-part overview of the Roswell, NM UFO crash
- Season 3, episode 13 covers Dorothy Izatt’s “Vancouver Lights” home video
- Season 5, episode 1 has a two-part story about the Hudson River UFO
- Season 6, episode 17 wonders whether UFOs seen in Nevada are actually top secret military planes
- Season 7, episode 5 recounts a UFO video captured by a prominent Mexican journalist
- Season 7, episode 21 is an entire episode on Aliens and UFOs and includes one of the scariest Unsolved Mysteries segments: “The Allagash Abductions”
- Season 9, episode 17 covers “Men in Black”
- Volume 3, episode 2 “Something in the Sky” tells the story of 300 Michiganders who saw mysterious lights in the sky in 1994
A sci-fi horror movie starring Christopher Walken as Manhattan author Whitley Strieber, who begins waking in the night with the feeling that he is being watched. Strieber takes his family to a cottage in the woods where he experiences more paranormal phenomena and becomes dangerously paranoid. Seeking help, Strieber learns from a hypnotherapist that he has repressed the memory of being abducted and experimented on by aliens. He decides he must confront his fears (the aliens) in order to move on with his life.
A sci-fi drama based on Travis Walton’s true story. Walton was a logger working in the White Mountains of Arizona with five other men in November, 1975. They see an unidentified flying object (UFO) and Walton disappears after getting out of his truck to investigate a beam of light emanating from the object. When his coworkers report Walton’s disappearance, they are humiliated by local police even after passing lie detector tests. Walton returns five days later and his abduction is shown through excruciating flashbacks.
All 11 seasons of The X-Files is now streaming on Freevee. This iconic sci-fi drama series follows FBI special agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) as they investigate unsolved casefiles involving paranormal phenomena. Memorable episodes of The X-Files that deal with aliens include the pilot episode, “Erlenmeyer Flask” (season 1, episode 24), “Duane Berry” (season 2, episode 5), and “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” (season 3, episode 20).
A good companion to the television show, or a standalone movie, The X-Files is a sci-fi thriller that finds Mulder and Scully uncovering a government conspiracy involving an alien species colonizing Earth. While investigating a bombing that claimed the lives of five people, Mulder and Scully are told that the victims were already dead when the bomb went off. The informant alleges that the bombing was faked as part of a coverup to explain the deaths of people who actually died after coming into contact with a parasitic alien species. The special agents investigate while being pursued by government officials involved in the coverup.
One of M. Night Shyamalan’s best films is this sci-fi horror movie about an alien invasion from the perspective of a widower (Mel Gibson), his brother (Joaquin Phoenix) and his two children (Abigail Breslin and Rory Culkin). At first in denial about the covert invasion, when video evidence of the aliens is broadcast the family accepts that they must protect themselves. Inspired by films like The Birds (1963) and Night of the Living Dead (1968), the family retreats to the cellar of their farmhouse.
A sci-fi action movie directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the H.G. Wells novel of the same name. Tom Cruise stars as Ray, a divorced blue-collar worker in Brooklyn, New York who has a strained relationship with his children: teenager Robbie (Justin Chatwin) and 10-year-old Rachel (Dakota Fanning). When aliens appear in fighting machines, Ray and his children go on the run in a fight for survival from the aliens.
A sci-fi horror movie based on the novella of the same name by Stephen King. Following a big storm in small town Maine, an artist (Thomas Jane) and his son go to get groceries and notice a thick mist surrounding the store. After a store employee is grabbed by a tentacled creature in front of others, they realize they cannot venture into the mist and are trapped in the store. While the alien creatures in The Mist are scary, much of the fear and suspense comes from the actions of other human beings, especially the film’s gutting final scene.
A sci-fi horror movie starring Keri Russell as a suburban mom whose family starts experiencing unexplainable events — their kitchen is rearranged overnight, birds crash into their home, and their security alarm goes off for seemingly no reason. When they install cameras in the house, they discover three entities standing over them while they sleep. An expert they consult calls these entities the “Greys” and associates their appearance with child abduction. Desperate to keep their children safe, the family boards up their home and prepares for a final confrontation.
A sci-fi action movie that is scary because of how absolutely dominant the invading alien species is at fighting. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt star as two Earth military personnel battling aliens (called “Mimics”), who are so advanced they can change time to redo any battle they lose. Through many “loops” the two learn how to fight the Mimics and finally figure out a weakness that they can target.
A sci-fi psychological horror movie written and directed by Alex Garland. Natalie Portman stars as a cellular biology professor and Army soldier who volunteers for a dangerous mission into a mysterious quarantine zone where plants and animals have mutated following a meteor crashing in the area. With no communication to the outside world, the explorers find the quarantine zone filled to the brim with nightmares.