For years, directors and writers have fantasized about the existence of aliens and have continued to fill books, movies, and TV shows with their imaginations. Hollywood, in particular, has had a long obsession with extraterrestrial beings, and that’s a good thing since fans have been able to see some incredible depictions of extraterrestrials.

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Just as is the formula in most hero vs. villain duels, the majority of alien attack movies tend to end with humans in the lead. Since humans are depicted as the superior species, a victory is always guaranteed. However, there have been a few instances where the aliens have come away with a triumph.


Invasion of the Body Thieves (1978)

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After invading San Fransisco, the gelatinous aliens take the form of seed pods with pink flowers. Soon they begin to take over human bodies targeting sleeping people. The hero, Dr. Matthew Bennell, does his best to stay awake for most of the film, but he ends up becoming a victim too.

Dr. Bennell’s case is unfortunate, as, unlike others, he finds a way to beat the aliens but still fails. Staying awake for days is no easy task, so audiences can’t help but support him, hoping he’ll eventually find a way to get rid of the invading creatures. Unfortunately, that never happens. In the end, all of San Francisco is conquered.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

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Still from the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still.

The alien races of other plants worry about the animosity between humans as well as their efforts to build deadly endeavors. They thus create an interplanetary police force and order the rulers of the Earth either to adopt peace like them, or to suffer the consequences.

The beauty of the events in the film is that they don’t just take place during the Cold War, but there is also a Cold War between aliens and humans. No real combat takes place, but the systems the aliens have put in place give humans no choice but to bend to their will. As such, they become victorious.

Skyline (2010)

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A character stares desperately at aliens in Skyline (2010)

When spaceships invade the world and start sucking in humans, the US Airforce is forced into action. However, the aliens survive every attack from the military, including a nuclear strike, and remain undefeated.

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A “clean win” would be the best phrase to describe victory since the US government isn’t the only one not stopping the aliens. Later, the aliens are shown to have taken over London and Hong Kong as well. And with governments unable to do anything, humans have no choice but to accept their fate.

The Thing (1982)

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MacReady fights in The Thing.

An alien parasite attacks a research facility in Antarctica and begins to assimilate the workers. In order to defeat him, MacReady decides to blow up the entire facility. But when he leaves, he comes across another colleague, who was not caught in the explosion and who is supposedly also infected.

MacReady’s decision is difficult because blowing up the research facility means killing all of his remaining colleagues. Yet he chooses to do so to save humanity as a whole. He understands that if he doesn’t, the alien parasite will move to other regions. Unfortunately, his sacrifice ends up being for nothing, making him one of the heroes of cinema who failed in his quest.

Planet of the Apes (2001)

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Another Lincoln Memorial statue at the end of Planet Of The Apes (2001)

Astronaut Leo travels back in time to the year 5021 and lands on the planet Ashlar where humanoid apes are the dominant species and have taken humans as their slaves. He eventually manages to escape, but upon returning to Earth, he discovers that it is now ruled by the same humanoid apes.

Considering everything he’s been through, audiences can’t help but feel a form of relief when Leo rides through the electromagnetic storm and lands in Washington, D.C. But in what is one of the greatest twists of all time, even Lincoln’s monument was changed to honor a great ape leader. It’s a twist that audiences didn’t particularly appreciate, and as such is considered one of the worst movie endings of all time.

The Live (1988)

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They Live (1988) by John Carpenter

A wanderer named Nada, who acquires glasses that see things others cannot, discovers that the ruling class is made up of aliens posing as humans. He makes an effort to stop them, including destroying the transmitter that hides their true identity from humans. Unfortunately, he is killed at the end of the film.

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That Nada goes through so much trouble but still fails to quite take down the alien bosses is pitiful. But as a bachelor fighting an overpowered group, his loss makes sense. And since he’s the only person fearless enough to stop, his elimination means victory for the aliens. Worse still is the revelation that there are many human collaborators who are happy to see the aliens in power, implying that the situation is unlikely to change.

Borough 9 (2009)

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Wikus speaks with an alien in District 9

A group of sickly insectoid aliens are quickly captured and taken into containment at the District 9 camp when they land on Earth. Years later, Christopher, one of the aliens, plans to escape from Earth and return to his home planet.

Christopher manages to escape but it’s not his only victory. Human abuse of extraterrestrials is also exposed and those responsible are held accountable. Best of all is the hint that Christopher will likely return with reinforcements to bring the remaining aliens home.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

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Hands pointing to the sky in Close Encounters of the Third Kind

In one of Steven Spielberg’s best films, Roy, an electrical engineer, is sent to fix an electrical grid that has stopped working. There he encounters a UFO and discovers the existence of aliens.

Unlike other sci-fi movies where governments are actively fighting alien invasions. the government decides to turn a blind eye here. But denying the existence of aliens only makes people more curious. Yet aliens are never treated. Instead, they voluntarily choose to return all the people they kidnapped before taking Roy with them.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

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Avengers Infinity War Thanos Doctor Strange clones

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes attempt to stop the planet Titan’s Thanos as he attempts to wipe out half the population. They fail to do so and per Thanos’ wish, half the people disappear.

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Thanos’ victory is more impressive since he’s up against some very capable individuals. Other aliens normally have to fight humans with no special abilities or skills, but in this case Thanos is up against highly experienced heroes to fend off attacks. The obstacles are many but he overcomes them all.

Battlefield Land (2000)

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Aliens conquer Earth and subject humans to slave labor, forcing them to mine precious metals. A human manages to overthrow the alien boss but then makes a deal with him: the humans will keep the mining resources for the aliens while living free lives so that the greater alien powers outside of Earth won’t notice anything wrong and send reinforcements.

This is a rare example of a case where the aliens are defeated but still win. In this case, the alines continue to benefit greatly from the resources of the Earth. It also becomes clear that humans cannot win a real contest. This is why the resistance leader quickly strikes a deal, ensuring that the biggest bosses outside of Earth aren’t forced to act. In the end, the boss who oversees the Earth maintains his good image because his superiors believe he has succeeded in peacefully coexisting aliens and humans.

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