Mark Kermode’s Top 10 Screen Aliens

With Ridley Scott’s prequel to Alien just around the corner Britain’s “favourite” film critic Mark Kermode shares his thoughts on the best screen aliens.

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Mark Kermode, writing in The Observer newspaper, talks about his favourite screen aliens as the UK prepares for Ridley Scott’s new film Prometheus.

There’s some obvious choices from the outspoken critic such as the aliens of Alien, The Thing, The Blob and E.T. but his more interesting choices include Frank-N-Furter from 1975’s cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the man-in-a-suit-with-kitchen-foil-trousers creature from This Island Earth.

He also includes in his top 10 Mars Attacks, The Day The Earth Stood Still, and The Man Who Fell To Earth.

Controversial as always he also adds 2001: A Space Odyssey to his list – a film where the alien is never revealed. Of the film he says: “Originally described in Arthur C Clarke’s short story The Sentinel as pyramid-shaped, [the alien] appears on film as an enigmatic oblong that functions variously as a teacher, an interstellar alarm, a star-gate and (ultimately) some form of rejuvenating deity. What it all means remains a mystery, though many have observed that the measurements of the monolith closely resemble the upended dimensions of a CinemaScope screen. Spooky!”

This Island Earth (Newman, USA, 1955)

The Blob (Yeaworth Jr./Doughten Jr., USA, 1958)

Alien (Scott, USA/UK, 1979)

ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (Spielberg, USA, 1982)

2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, UK, 1968)

Mars Attacks (Burton, USA, 1996)

The Thing (Carpenter, USA, 1982)

The Day The Earth Stood Still (Wise, USA, 1951)

The Man Who Fell To Earth (Roeg, UK, 1976)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Sharman, USA/UK, 1975)

Compiled by Mark Kermode
This list was published in The Observer newspaper

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About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Avatar
    le0pard13 Reply

    10. Space Vampires, Lifeforce
    9. The Prawn of District 9
    8. It! The Terror from Beyond Space (predecessor to my #1)
    7. Pod People, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
    6. Predator
    5. The Water Aliens, The Abyss
    4. Klaatu, The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)
    3. E.T.
    2. The Thing (1982)
    1. The Alien (of course)

  2. Avatar
    Rodney Reply

    I agree with le0pard13 – The Alien would top my list too…..

  3. Avatar
    mark Reply

    Some alternatives might be:

    (1) The ape wearing the deep sea diving helmet in Robot Monster … the best bit is when he falls for the Earth girl.

    (2) Dudley Manlove as Eros in Ed Wood’s Plan 9 … as Danny Peary points out, this delirious spaceman actually becomes the voice of reason against man’s stupidity.

    (3) Jeff Bridges in Starman … what a sweetie.

    (4) Mandy Patinkin in Alien Nation – at least he’s easier to understand than James Caan.

    (5) Robert Vaughn in Battle Beyond the Stars … a great look for old rock jaw.

    (6) Speaking of John Sayles, either of the henchmen in Brother From Another Planet.

    (7)The singing dog in MIB II.

    (8) Chris Mulkey as the bank robber at the start of The Hidden – by far the best part of the film.

    (9)The bouncing ball in Dark Star (was it an alien or something else??)

    (10) Mad Mel in Signs … whoops, sorry, he actually plays a human.

  4. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Mark: Haha – no, Mel is definitely human in Signs; a man of the cloth battling with his faith too if I remember rightly.

    How about the heart-ripping alien from underrated Rutger Hauer sci-fi horror Split Second!

  5. Avatar
    mark Reply


    Haven’t seen the Hauer film, but now that you mention it I will – just as soon as I pay my overdue DVD fines …

  6. Avatar
    Fitz Reply

    Few aliens creep me out as much as the ones from Rocky Horror Picture Show. Though the shot of the xenomorph getting Dallas in the airshaft is extremely close.

  7. Avatar
    Jack Deth Reply

    Hi, Mark and company:

    Great primary and alternative lists!

    I’ve always had soft spots for Ray Corrigan’s rubber suited ‘It! The Terror from Beyond Space’. And James Arness in roaring alien drag in ‘The Thing From Another World’. Though, for overall cheesiness. You have give credit to the Zipper up their back Martians in ‘Invaders from Mars’.

    I’ve often pondered how well the Alien survived aboard the Nostromo? While constantly drooling acid onto the decks and air ducts beneath it.

    What? No ‘It Conquered the World’?

    Just a few random thoughts.

  8. Avatar
    mark Reply

    Ni hao Jack

    Nostromo wouldn’t have been the only habitat in which the alien would have caused massive structural damage – what about Brad Dourif’s ship in No 4 when there was a bunch of the acid dripping buggers? No doubt the insurance premiums would have been pretty high.

    It Conquered the World is one I’ve been looking out for for ages – not ‘coz I’m a Peter Graves of Van Cleef fan, but due to the fact Frank Zappa gave it a plug before the song Cheepnis on the Roxy & Elsewhere LP.

    Looking back at Mr Kermode’s list, I just wonder about the inclusion of 2001 … did it have an actual screen alien, or just an ET presence?

  9. Avatar
    Jack Deth Reply

    Hi, Mark!

    Excellent points!

    I guess one would have to transport hibernating Aliens in large enclosed Pyrex Test Tubes or Beakers. Since the transporting space ship couldn’t handle the deterioration during its years or decade long trips back to Earth. Or Tosev III, if you’re a fan of Harry Turtledove.

    Kubrick did include The Space Child at the end of ‘2001’. So, I guess he, she or it could be considered an alien. Though on shaky ground.

    And, for your listening pleasure.

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