Dark Phoenix may be one of the more maligned X-Men movies to date, but there's no denying that a nearly omnipotent cosmic force is a really cool idea for an alien species. Based on the Dark Phoenix Saga from Marvel Comics, the 2019 film is at its best, a thrilling visual spectacle. It also makes for some incredible superpowers.
The third and final film in Edgar Wright's Cornetto Trilogy that includes Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, The World's End is a meditation on one man's arrested development. At 40, Gary King returns to his hometown with a group of childhood friends to finally complete a legendary bar crawl. During the epic night, they discover an alien invasion is imminent in the form of an A.I. hivemind controlling hordes of android replicas. The androids were a shock at the time and righteously scary, and even today, they remain an exciting sci-fi villain.
Long before he bungled Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, J.J. Abrams wrote and directed the perfectly adequate Super 8 as a homage to Stephen Spielberg's style of tenderhearted alien adventures. A group of kids from a sleepy Ohio town in 1979 discover a monstrous alien has escaped government captivity. The hyper-intelligent, sensitive being named "Cooper" endured years of torture and has the peculiar abilities to manipulate electromagnetic fields and even commune with people telepathically by touch.
Venom may have been the most surprisingly fun film of 2018 in terms of sheer ridiculousness. A spirited interpretation of the classic Spider-Man supervillain from Marvel Comics, the film follows a journalist infected with an extraterrestrial symbiotic entity that can manifest as a powerful, amorphous body over the host's own frame. The end result is a bloodthirsty anti-hero who likes to eat people and only saves the world when it's convenient. This one's two tongues way up.
Whether or not you liked Prometheus as a continuation of Ridley Scott's Alien franchise, the way it explores the origins of the Xenomorphs and all of human civilization is fascinating. After an archaeologist discovers signs that an ancient alien civilization, dubbed the "Engineers," seeded life on Earth long ago, a crew of scientists flies to a distant star system in the late 21st century looking for them. I affectionately call these giant humanoids "The Milkmen" on account of their strange appearance, and you should too.
The scene-stealing pile of rocks known as Korg made his hilarious debut in Thor: Ragnarok as an enslaved gladiator on Sakaar and has since become one of Thor's closest companions, living with him in New Asgard for the five year time-jump that happened during Avengers: Endgame. The Kronan race aren't always known for their dry humor, but Kork in particular is lovable thanks to Taika Waititi's motion capture and voice-acting.
A bright light in an otherwise difficult viewing experience, Babu Frik is the single greatest alien to ever grace the Star Wars galaxy (don't @ me). A tiny Anzellan droidsmith who works with Zorii Bliss and the Spice Runners of Kijimi, Babu is able to unlock C-3PO's forbidden memory banks so Rey, Finn, and Poe can learn the location of the Wayfinder. He's cute, sounds like a lovable drunk baby speaking gibberish, and, unlike Baby Yoda, we know he's a good-natured dude.
Within A Quiet Place, the origin of the monsters dubbed "Angels of Death" that destroy most of the world is never explained outright, but co-writer, director, and star John Krasinski confirmed that these resilient aliens rode to Earth on an asteroid. Their unique physiology renders them blind, but they have super-hearing, can travel at extreme speeds, and sport a naturally armored exoskeleton. Isn't evolution cool?
Everything about Alex Garland's Annihilation is bizarre and upsetting. Less a being and more an alien mutagen virus that may or may not be sentient, the Shimmer functions as a prism, except rather than refracting light, it refracts DNA, leading to all manner of bizarre mutations in the local ecosystem as it spreads in strange ways. The strangest of all happens when the Shimmer leaves the body of Dr. Ventress. It forms a mandelbulb fractal, and then transforms into a metallic humanoid mimic after absorbing a drop of Lena's blood. It remains the most brain-melting WTF alien moment of the decade.
Whereas many aliens in sci-fi are presented as invaders, the heptapods from Arrival — originally based on the short story "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang — are friendly but mysterious travelers that can perceive existence through time. In Denis Villeneuve's film, the heptapods nicknamed Abbot and Costello are depicted as tall, floating humanoids with squid-like bottom halves. Their behavior defies expectation at every turn, offering a more optimistic look at what alien life might be like in what's perhaps the best film about aliens from the 2010s.
This story is part of the Inverse Singularity Awards, a critics' poll and essay collection about the best genre movies of the 2010s.