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The 10 best alien designs in sci-fi movie history

There’s no way of knowing what life on other planets might look like, but that hasn’t stopped decades of filmmakers from taking their best guess.

Whether they’re meant to spark fear or sympathy, the designs of aliens on the big screen have provided some of the most iconic visuals in movie history.

Here are the 10 best alien designs ever in sci-fi movies.

10. The Bugs from Starship Troopers

Made at a transition point between practical effects and CGI, Starship Troopers combines techniques from across the history of movies for its satirical reverse alien invasion tale.

9. The Martians from Mars Attacks!

The bulging brains and skull-like faces of the aliens from Mars Attacks! make them look goofy and evil at the same time, which only makes it funnier that the movie’s human stars have such a hard time realizing they don’t come in peace.

8. The Prawns from District 9

The Prawns from District 9 manage to look distinctly alien while still coming across as sympathetic enough to land the movie’s central apartheid metaphor.

7. The Aliens from Attack the Block

Sometimes the scariest movie monsters are the ones you hardly see — and Attack the Block’s takes that to the extreme. Even in the light, these nearly invisible predators look like little more than masses of hair and glowing teeth.

6. The Heptapods from Arrival

Arrival gets extra credit for designing a visually compelling language along with its aliens. The extraterrestrials themselves are vastly different from humans in size and shape, making a friendly first contact nonetheless full of tension.

5. E.T. from E.T. the Extraterrestrial

Making something look truly alien and still cute isn’t an easy task. E.T. is kind of unsettling, but this alien wins over the movie’s human characters and audiences with its gentle demeanor and vulnerability.

4. The Borg from Star Trek

Slapping some electronics onto actors’ faces could come off as corny, but for the Borg, their obvious humanity only makes it creepier to consider how they’ve been forcibly converted — and anyone could become one.

3. The Tripods from War of the Worlds

Technically, the Tripods are the aliens’ vehicles, not the creatures themselves, but their design is iconic enough to bend the rules. When it comes to sci-fi designs that spark immediate terror, it’s hard to top these gigantic walking machines.

2. The Shapeshifter from The Thing

This almost feels like a cheat since the shapeshifting alien in The Thing takes on so many forms, each of which is one of the creepiest designs in all of sci-fi.

1. The Xenomorph from Alien

The Alien Xenomorphs have gone through a few changes throughout the series, but the sleek and sinister original design remains one of the scariest aliens in sci-fi history.