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How To Survive An Alien Invasion

Humanity has fought off hundreds of alien invasions in the movies. But how would we cope if the fantasy became reality?

As part of our Apocalypse Fortnight , we spoke to ex-Ministry of Defence and MoD UFO specialist Nick Pope (opens in new tab) about the ideal response to sixteen cinematic alien invasions .

1. The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)

The Threat: Silver-suited Klaatu and robot Gort can melt guns, cut power and do advanced maths, but Gort’s pant-lines still show.

The Fallout: Park-dwellers panic. Cops go berserk.Scared state troopers get trigger-itchy but Gort melts guns. Klaatu freezes lifts and turns lights out.

The Solution (Nick) : “I think things would have gone better if not for the trigger-happy soldier!

That said, while not as hell-bent on destruction as some sci-fi aliens, there’s a clear threat here from Klaatu and our response would be to stress our belief in freedom, self determination, etc.

I think we’d have a chance of negotiating ourselves out of this one.”

2. The War of the Worlds (1953)

The Threat: Manta-ray flying machines protected by force fields, the derigueur invading-alien techno accessory.

The Fallout : Heat rays frazzle friendly approaching earthlings like chips in a pan. Watches stop, lights go out and LA looks like the Blitz.

The Solution (Nick): “OK, no room for negotiation. This is total war and knowing what we know, chemical and biological warfare would be our key to survival.

A dirty kind of warfare, but if our survival depended upon it, we’d have no qualms. It’s clearly them or us.”

3. Predator (1987)

The Threat: Trophy hunters preying on species for sport. Boasting active camouflage, an armoured suit, infrared hunting tech, energy weapons, wrist blades and an area-wipe-out self-destruct mechanism among their toys.

The Fallout: Having skinned a Green Beret team in the jungle, the Predator wallops a squad of US Army Special Forces.

The Solution (Nick): “If you want to survive, drop your weapons or get pregnant [see Predator 2]. I think mutual respect is the key here, as we saw in Alien Vs Predator.

Let’s fight with these guys, not against them. Team them up with the SAS and go after Bin Laden and his murderous Al-Qaeda/Taliban chums.” [page-break]


4. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977)

The Threat: Classic grey alien. These fragile-looking visitors arrive from the planet fairy land in Christmas-bauble ships capable of moving at vast speeds.

The Fallout: Activation of electronic devices, power outages, flapping cat-flaps, shaking fridges, vision implantations... and abducting kids. Pretty low, guys!

The Solution (Nick): “There’s no obvious threat here, unless we start trouble, in which case – self-evidently – the aliens seem more powerful than us.

The clear priorities in such a situation would be exactly as is portrayed in the film: establish a dialogue – though probably not using music, but mathematics, as in the film Contact – and try to find out about their technology.”

5. Independence Day (1996)

The Threat: Their “destroyer” ships measure 15 miles wide, pack nuke-repelling force fields and house a fleet of zippy “attacker” ships that fire “green shit”.

The Fallout: Total destruction. Telepathy reveals their strategy: invade, act all big and bad, milk all resources and zip off to the next planet.

The Solution (Nick): “More total war, I’m afraid, so not much chance of negotiation here. If our computers really were compatible, I guess cyber warfare would seem to be the answer: viruses, trojans, etc.

Alternatively, maybe we could bombard the aliens with offers for replica watches, fake degrees or Viagra, so they’re too busy deleting to destroy us.”

6. Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956)

The Threat: They look like us, only they’re not the same. Sprout from “seeds drifting through space for years”. Powers are minimal. But their stealth – that’s scary.

The Fallout: The Poddies organise to “turn” the rest of humanity. Even a baby gets got in a way creepy scene. Paranoia escalates before the Pod-packers’ inexorable, inescapable forward march.

The Solution (Nick): “Speed is of the essence, when faced with an exponential increase in the infection. If you don’t nip it in the bud – or pod – we’re finished. So I’m afraid this is a case of attacking the infected area with fuel-air explosives or nuclear weapons.”

7. The Faculty (1998)

The Threat: Initially, they look like teachers. In alien form, they range from icky fishy-slugs to tendril-dripping monsters. Entry into human bodies begins at the earlobe.

The Fallout: Paranoia and conflict run rampant in high school. Teachers receive multiple hues of makeover. Total takeover by ear inspection follows.

The Solution (Nick): “I think cotton buds might be the key here, despite the ‘Do not insert into the ear’ warnings. Either that, eardrops or a syringe.” [page-break]


8. The Blob (1958)

The Threat: Quivering mass of jelly that arrived by meteorite and displays a voracious capacity to expand with each new victim it engulfs.

The Fallout: As what one assumes is a baby blob, the gelatinous beast creeps up a chap’s stick and sets out consuming him, before moving on to gobble up hospital staff.

The Solution (Nick): “Dry ice would seem to be a good strategy. As ever, any response to hostile aliens would doubtless be to find a successful strategy, experimenting with a whole range of weapons and tactics.”

9. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

The Threat: Duck-waddling, saucer-eyed botanist alien whose USPs include psychic connection, levitation and telephones.

The Fallout: Nothing too worrisome. Spilled M&Ms, familial disturbance. That said, ETs can’t handle booze and if they’ve formed a wireless connection with your kid, there might be mischief at school.

The Solution (Nick): “Despite some of my rather warlike answers, needless to say, the government and military wouldn’t try to harm ET. But we would undoubtedly want to see if we could get him to tell us the secrets of psychic powers, faster than- light travel, etc.”

10. It Came From Outer Space (1953)

The Threat: An octopus-like creature with tentacles. They have ray guns but prefer not to use them. Instead, they temporarily replace humans with robots and send them shopping for electrical goods.

The Fallout: Trouble caused ranges from minor rock falls to mass McCarthy-era paranoia. But it turns out the aliens just needed parts to fix their ship.

The Solution: “A nice example of why it’s always a good idea to try to establish a dialogue first. What looked like an alien invasion actually wasn’t.”

11. Species (1995)

The Threat: Spawned in a lab from spliced alien and human DNA, Sil grows fast and displays remarkable intelligence and regenerative abilities. In alien form, she wields a skin-piercing tongue and nipple tentacles.

The Fallout: A range of Sil-kills involve dismemberment, thumb-ectomies and exploding cars. Men are used to assist impregnation, then are quickly discarded. Honestly.

The Solution (Nick): “Given my experience of investigating UFOs for the government, I think it would be essential for me to take charge of the impregnation process!”

12. Mars Attacks! (1996)

The Threat: Martians who fly hub-cap-like ships and wield toy-shop death-ray guns that disintegrate foes.

The Fallout: Mayhem. The Martians tempt world leaders to peace meetings and then unleash slaughter. “Ack!”

The Solution (Nick): “There’s an old saying that if what you’re doing isn’t working, you should try something else. I’m not sure that the military would think to use yodelling, but sonic weaponry could be tried if more conventional weapons failed.” [page-break]

13. The Thing (1982)

The Threat: The Thing’s forms are many, ranging from dog-devouring “thing” to clawed “thing” to multi-toothed flowering “thing”.

The Fallout: Infection, bodily assimilation, paranoia, suicides, shootings and a potential threat to the whole human race, given its rapacious infection rate.

The Solution (Nick): “This movie shows that fire is an effective weapon against hostile aliens and flamethrowers would be a logical weapon to try.

However, to paraphrase from a well-known sci-fi movie, given that a tiny piece of this alien may be capable of infecting humans, I say we nuke the entire site – it’s the only way to be sure.”

14. Signs (2002)

The Threat: Stealthy, long-legged, dogbothering and creepy-fast dirt-green critters, assembled in ships over roughly 274 cities and using crop circles to coordinate attacks.

The Fallout: Crushed crops, creepily clicking baby monitors and a lot of people die.

The Solution (Nick): “This is counterintuitive, as most people with an interest in the paranormal interpret crop circles as a benign, New Age phenomenon,”

15. Invaders From Mars (1953)

The Threat: Humanoid Martians ruled by a head in a glass bowl. With tentacles. Abilities include underground tunnelling, sucking people underground through sand-whirlpools, rock-melting guns, mind control and amazing eyeball acting from the head-in-a-bowl leader.

The Fallout: Rocket scientist dad returns eerily changed after scouting the site of a saucer-landing witnessed by his son. Soon, most of the townfolk have changed.

The Solution (Nick): “As in many sci-fi movies, if we believed kids who said they’d seen UFOs, and if we got suspicious when local people started acting strangely, maybe we’d increase our chances of dealing with the aliens.

Issues of mind control are interesting, however, and both the Americans and the British have spent a lot of money on psychic research, as has been revealed in formerly classified documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.”

16. Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)

The Threat: Danger comes from outer space in saucers. Aliens take the form of well-spoken humans in swishy satin, whose weaponry includes “decomposite rays” and waspish put-downs.

The Fallout: Plan 9 involves resurrecting the dead using long-distance electrodes to stimulate pineal and pituitary glands.

The Solution (Nick): “Again, this isn’t really about evil aliens, because if we’d listened to their messages, we’d see that they simply wanted humans to stop developing weapons of mass destruction.

The bottom line, as with a lot of this, is try to talk to these people first. But if that doesn’t work, hit them hard, with everything you’ve got.”

The Total Film team are made up of the finest minds in all of film journalism. They are: Editor Jane Crowther, Deputy Editor Matt Maytum, Reviews Ed Matthew Leyland, New Editor Jordan Farley, and Online Editor Jack Shepherd. Expect exclusive news, reviews, features, and more from the team behind the smarter movie magazine.