The Alien franchise returns to cinemas tomorrow with Ridley Scott’s newest entry to it, Alien Covenant. To celebrate this I thought I would count down 10 of my favourite Alien species. Many of these picks have been influenced by a single member of the species, but I have tried not to let this happen too much. I have also tried to limit myself to one species per franchise; otherwise this list would mainly be about Star Wars characters.
10) Mimics (Edge of Tomorrow) – Sometimes just the concept of a character or species is enough to make it memorable and brilliant. Such is the case with the Mimics. From the film Edge of Tomorrow, and its Manga source material All You Need Is Kill, they have such a unique ability that meant they had to make the list. The time loops they create to protect their most powerful troops, the Alphas, is such a brilliant idea. They have a very cool design, and benefited from some excellent design work. I’m looking forward to seeing how this time loop idea can be used in the sequel, and if there is more to the mimics than a species simply trying to conquer the Earth.
9) Prawns (District 9) – The ‘Prawns’, possibly really called Poleepkwa, from District 9 are some of the most brilliantly designed aliens from the 21st Century, thanks to the work of Weta Workshop (the visual effects studio behind The Lord of the Rings). The name Prawns is a derogatory term from the humans, because of their resemblance to a species of cricket known as the parktown prawns, which is viewed as a pest in Johannesburg. Right from just the human name from them you can read so much in to how they are treated, despite their intelligence, incredible technology, and society. That society that they make on earth is really well fleshed out by writer and director Neill Blomkamp. Yes the aliens from District 9 are used as allegory for apartheid, but their beauty is in the design, and wonderful vibrancy that Blomkamp brought to them.
8) Transformers (Transformers) – Now I know that the Michael Bay Transformers films are not good, in fact they are a headache inducing, unintelligible mess, but they are not the only Transformers films out there. There is also the 1986 animated version. Even given how bad the Bay iterations are, it has to be said, the Transformers themselves look fantastic. Both the Autobots and the Decepticons look so cool, and many of the central characters, like Optimus Prime and Bumblebee are great versions of the characters. The Transformers can’t be any higher on the list, despite my huge childhood love for them, because how horrible some of them have been in Bay’s films. Many of the smaller Transformers are just annoying, and some such as Mudflap and Skids are quite offensive with their very bad attempts at accents.
7) Predators (Predator) – I’ve only ever seen the original 1987 Predator movie, and none of the other four films that contain Predators. Despite this the Predator still made enough of an impact to make this list. The Predators strong, intelligent, hunter species, with great technology that allows them to travel between worlds and actively camouflage, as well as having incredibly powerful energy weapons. This makes them a formidable opponent for anyone (except Arnold Schwarzenegger of course). They have an awesome design, created by Stan Winston, although it can’t match up to the Xenomorph design when they do come into contact during the Alien vs. Predator crossover films.
6) Flora Colossus (Guardians of the Galaxy) – Ok so we’ve only ever actually seen one Flora Colossus on screen, but when that one is Groot he has to make the list. Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy is a big loveable tree monster, and one who actually seems to have the biggest heart. The beautiful moment when he produces the flower for the little girl says so much about his character, despite the fact he’s only capable of say one sentence. Vin Diesel manages to bring so much variety to his delivery of just the one line, that he expresses so much with it. In Vol. 2 Baby Groot is one of the most adorable characters in the history of cinema. The scene with him trying to locate an object on the Ravagers ship is hilarious. If we’d seen more Flora Colossi then they might be higher on the list, but as it is, all we’ve got is Groot.
5) The Thing (The Thing) – The brilliance of The Thing from John Carpenter’s 1982 classic Sci-Fi horror is its ability to assimilate and then imitate other people. The Thing itself looks disgusting and terrifying, although that is nothing compared to the horror of it being able to mimic the characters in the film, because this means that no one is able to trust each other. The finale of The Thing, where MacReady and Childs share a bottle of whiskey, and you cannot be sure if they are truly able to trust each other, because either of them could be the alien. As with Groot I can’t really put The Thing any higher because he is the only one of that species we have ever seen, and we know virtually nothing about them.
4) Vulcans (Star Trek) – Now I’m not a huge Star Trek guy. I’ve never really seen any of the TV shows, and have only watched 4 of the films. Even so the Vulcans deserve a place on this list, primarily because of Mr Spock, even though he’s only half Vulcan. A logical, and often cold race, the Vulcans try to distance themselves from emotions as much as possible. This makes them, and Spock in particular, a great counterpoint to the humans in the Star Trek universe. This is what makes Kirk and Spock’s relationship so great. The destruction of Vulcan in 2009’s Star Trek just adds an extra dimension to Vulcans and Spock’s struggle of loyalty to his crew, and what is left of his species.
3) Twi’leks (Star Wars) – There are so many races in the Star Wars Universe that it was incredibly difficult to narrow down to just one. My pick of Twi’Leks, the natives of the planet Ryloth mostly recognisable by their lekku (the tentacle or sack like things on their heads), may be a strange one to many people. But there are many great Twi’Lek characters in Star Wars canon. Now not a lot of these characters get a huge amount to do in the films. Bib Fortuna, Jabba’s majordomo, is probably the main Twi’Lek in the Star Wars films, although we do get some brief shots of Aayla Secura, one of my favourite Jedi. It is in the extended universe TV shows, like Star Wars Rebels, or novels like Lords of the Sith, that Twi’Leks and the story of Ryloth really gets explored. Sure this isn’t strictly in the films, but my list my rules.
2) Xenomorphs (Alien) – The granddaddy of horror aliens is definitely the Xenomorphs. From the first Alien in 1979, where it bursts out of Kane’s chest and systematically takes apart the crew of the Nostromo, it is hard not to have fallen in love with the Xenomorphs. H. R. Giger’s design is easily the coolest looking alien of all time, and the idea of it just being an incredibly intelligent, brutal, predatory species, whose only interest is to continue the species and feed. The fact that all they want to do is survive, and don’t have any regard for other species at all, means it is hard to hate them, but makes them scary as hell.
1) Kryptonians (Superman) – Kryptonians may not be the first alien that jumps to people’s minds, mainly because they look exactly like humans. But Superman, and the rest of his species have given us some of the coolest aliens in film, and beyond. Not only is Kal-El possibly the greatest Superhero of all time, but also there are numerous other notable Kryptonians, including Jor-El, General Zod, Supergirl, and Faora. The list of powers that Kryptonians get under the yellow sun is so impressive. Speed, strength, flight, heat vision, freezing breath, and X-Ray vision are just among the powers. It could be easy for a character like this to be boring, but the list of brilliant characters, and the impressive actors who have played them, continue to make Kryptonians my favourite aliens in all of movie history.
So those are my favourite alien species from film history. Let me know what you think of my picks, and what species you would have included, in the comments below.