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Best & Worst: Alien Invasion Movies

Best: War of the Worlds (2005)

Despite updating H.G. Wells' tale to modern-day America (from Victorian Woking), Spielberg remained pleasingly faithful to the source material.

Tom Cruise stars as the divorced dad caught at the centre of the maelstrom, though the circumstances require him to be more resourceful than gung-ho.

The alien tripods, with their foghorn-like call, are seriously imposing invaders, bringing a level of threat that this genre desperately needs, but so often lacks.

There's also a great central scene of human threat, and, with Spielberg cleaving close to the novel's conclusion, the slightly unlikely 'reunited family' ending is undercut by the human race's fluky, unwitting victory.

Worst: The War of the Worlds (1953)

This earlier adaptation of Wells' novel is widely considered to be a sci-fi classic of the era, and although it sports some decent-at-the-time special effects, it doesn't hold up to closer scrutiny, despite what some critics would have you believe.

It all goes downhill after the initial invasion, which is fairly well-handled. The poor acting fails to engage, and there's an embarrassingly bad scene in which the leads meet a martian in a farmhouse (it holds up particularly poorly compared to Spielberg's masterclass 'homage').

Some of the movie's 'science' is just plain bizarre, too, like the bio-mechanical martians and the three tripod-esque beams that emanate from beneath the spaceships.

Best: Mars Attacks (1996)

Much of the pleasure of Tim Burton's B-movie sci-fi romp comes from seeing an unbelievably starry cast and very impressive visual effects used for a light-hearted passion project.

Burton's affecionate homage is too much fun (for the audience and the actors) to generate any real tension, but that's hardly the point. This is an invasion that's played purely for laughs, and you don't need to be a genre aficionado to have a good giggle at the madcap interstellar war.

Perfect if you're just not in the mood for a dreary, apocalyptic invasion.

Worst: War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave (2008)

Judging by this abomination, C. Thomas Howell (who acts and directs here) can't have learned much from his time spent with Steven Spielberg on the set of E.T.

It also seems like he doesn't have a modicum of respect for the great man, turning out this absolute abomination (itself a sequel to the equally bad 2005 DTV turd War of the Worlds ).

Unsurprisingly, it bears little resemblance to any previous iterations of the story.

The 'original' was a bargain bucket adaptation of the basic plot (aliens invade, only to be undone by their weakness for human germs), and this follow-up continues with a ludicrous, cheaply-realised extension of the story, as human survivors are held captive on a Martian recreation of Earth or something.

Best: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

A classic 50s sci-fi thriller that's worthy of its reputation. Much has been read into its McCarthy era paranoia, but it's good enough to be simply enjoyed on the level of superficial thrills, if that's what you're after.

After a flashforward prologue, the film takes its time crafting the slowburn suspense, but it's never boring. What limited special effects are on show are well handled, adding to the fear factor without overwhelming it.

Its legacy can be witnessed in countless movies that have followed, but the body-hijacking theme has never since been done quite as claustrophobically well.

Worst: The Invasion (2007)

While Don Siegel's 1956 film of Jack Finney's The Body Snatchers remains the definitive adaptation, Philip Kaufman made another well-regarded version with Donald Sutherland and Jeff Goldblum in the 70s, and Abel Ferrara also directed a half-decent redo.

It was left to Oliver Hirschbiegel ( Downfall ), then, to prove that it wasn't a fail-safe formula for movie making. Here, the 'pods' are dispensed with, and an alien virus that affects people during their sleep is brought in.

V for Vendetta
director James McTeigue was brought in to direct some additional scenes (written by the Wachowskis) late in the day, but the intervention adds to the unsure tone without generating any of the absent tension.

Best: Independence Day (1996)

Independence Day is not a subtle film. Nor is it a film you'll watch for carefully drawn characters, or subversive political critique.

Instead, you'll watch it for a barnstorming special effects riot, as the malevolent ETs destroy major landmarks with spectacular style, on a scale that's rarely been matched in the genre.

The first wave of the invasion captures a mood of disconcerting terror, but fear not, you can switch your brain off for the second half as the diverse band of heroes - wisecracking fighter pilot, charming president, geeky scientist and paranoid nutjob - launch the counter-offensive.

Worst: Crimson Force (2005)

A bit of a twist on the usual invasion dynamic doesn't make things any more interesting, or do anything to mask the crippling absence of budget.

Here humans are the 'aliens' who arrive on Mars, only to find themselves in the middle of a civil war. The actors look like they have as much idea about what's going on as we do, as they lurch between shoddy sets to half-baked ideas.

The presence of C. Thomas Howell is a very useful indicator: steer clear of any sci-fi with this man's face on it.

Best: Village of the Damned (1960)

Another low-key alien invasion here, offering further evidence that extra-terrestrial life doesn't always come at us with all guns blazing.

Instead, the mysterious forces briefly render an entire village unconscious, and impregnate all the women during a blackout. It's a slow-burn plan, but eventually a race of albino children are born, and they develop at an alarming rate.

The sinister moppets also have telepathic powers, which they use against their fellow villagers. And there are pockets of these creepy kids scattered around the globe...

Worst: Plan 9 from Outer Space (1958)

Not just one of the worst invasion movies of all time, but simply one of the worst movies.

It has some ramshackle charm as a result of being so shoddily made, but goodwill will only get you so far, especially in the face of a logic vacuum, the (apparently inconsequential) death of the leading man, and total lack of script.

It's funny in an appalling-continuity-errors kinda way, but less enjoyable to watch than you'd think. Stick with Ed Wood instead.