5 Alien Invasion Movies That Were Huge Hits At The Box Office (& 5 That Flopped)
Like any other subgenre, the alien invasion movie is marked by both successes and failures. Not every one of them can bank at the box office.
Alien invasion stories are incredibly popular, and they’ve been around for centuries. The concept of an alien invasion often makes for an incredible and imaginative story, and it often results in some great discussion. Are there aliens out there? If so, will they ever invade us? If they invade us, how will they invade us? Will it be peaceful or violent?
These types of questions – and the resulting visuals and excitement – often make for box office success stories. But not all alien invasion movies are successful. Like any other subgenre, the alien invasion subgenre is marked by both successes and failures.
Huge Hit: War Of The Worlds (2005)
Serving as an adaptation of H.G. Wells’s iconic science fiction novel, War of the Worlds was released in 2005 and was directed by the legendary Steven Spielberg. It follows Tom Cruise’s Ray Ferrier, a longshoreman who must protect his two children from the invading aliens. While the anticlimactic ending may forever remain controversial, War of the Worlds received positive reviews and performed exceptionally well at the box office, grossing nearly $600 million on a $130 million budget.
Flopped: Annihilation (2018)
No matter how much Annihilation is praised, that doesn’t change the fact that it bombed at the box office. Based on a novel by Jeff VanderMeer and adapted by writer-director Alex Garland, Annihilation follows a group of scientists who enter an alien void/entity that has landed on Earth and begun to mutate the local plants and animals.
Marketed as an action movie, Annihilation grossed just $43 million on its $55 million budget. The international Netflix release certainly didn’t help in that regard.
Flopped: The 5th Wave (2016)
Young adult movies were all the rage in the mid 2010s, and that included this alien invasion film from director J Blakeson. Adapted from Rick Yancey’s novel of the same name, this one stars Chloe Grace Moretz as young Cassie Sullivan, who must protect her younger brother from increasing waves of alien invaders. The movie received poor reviews from critics, as many noted its derivative nature and poor special effects. It also performed poorly at the box office, opening in sixth and grossing $109 million on a $54 million budget.
Huge Hit: Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977)
Another Steven Spielberg masterpiece, Close Encounters of the Third Kind was released in 1977 to instant acclaim. Unlike many alien invasion films, this one actually puts a positive twist on the proceedings. The aliens are not violent, and humanity devises a method of peaceful communication so they can speak with the extraterrestrial visitors. Made for $20 million, the movie grossed $288 million in its original box office run – roughly the equivalent of $1.2 billion today.
Flopped: Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)
An exercise in the danger of needless sequels, Independence Day: Resurgence encapsulates Hollywood’s desire for easy money. No one was asking for a sequel to Independence Day, and besides, it had been twenty years since the original was released. Even if there was demand for a sequel, it had long passed. This is proven through the movie’s disastrous box office performance. It took in just $389 million on a $165 million budget and even failed to reach the top ten highest grossing movies of 2016.
Huge Hit: Men In Black (1997)
The mid-to-late ’90s was a fantastic time for Will Smith, and he starred in two legendary alien invasion movies back to back – Independence Day in 1996 and Men in Black in 1997. Based on Lowell Cunningham’s comic series of the same name, Men in Black became the third highest grossing movie of ’97, taking in an impressive $590 million on a $90 million budget. It solidified Will Smith as a major Hollywood star, and it continued the alien invasion craze of the mid ’90s.
Huge Hit: District 9 (2009)
A movie that seemingly came out of nowhere, District 9 was produced by Peter Jackson and directed by first-time director Neill Blomkamp. The film, which is a thinly veiled metaphor for the apartheid, follows an alien invasion in South Africa. The movie takes a unique approach to the alien invasion story, as the humans imprison the aliens inside concentration camps. Perhaps it was the involvement of Peter Jackson, or perhaps it was the viral marketing. Either way, District 9 was an enormous hit, grossing $210 million on just a $30 million budget.
Flopped: Cowboys & Aliens (2011)
Cowboys & Aliens is one of those rare Jon Favreau movies that just didn’t work. Despite its incredibly unique story and genre crossover, Cowboys & Aliens never received much attention. The movie received mediocre reviews and flopped at the box office, grossing just $174 million on a $163 million budget. This was considered an unbelievable disappointment, as the movie was backed by a huge budget, a huge director, and enormous stars like Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford.
Huge Hit: Independence Day (1996)
Perhaps the most famous alien invasion movie of all time, Independence Day took the world by storm (much like its aliens) throughout the summer of 1996.
Co-written and directed by Roland Emmerich and starring an incredible cast of A-list actors, Independence Day opened strong and quickly became a national phenomenon. The alien graced the cover of Time magazine and became the highest grossing movie of 1996, taking in an unbelievable $817 million on a $75 million budget.
Flopped: Battleship (2012)
Based on the popular board game of the same name, Battleship was quite a bizarre film. Not only was it based on a board game, but it centered the story around an alien invasion and the warships that try to protect Earth. Turning Battleship into an alien invasion piece was a questionable creative decision, and it resulted in both poor reviews and a disappointing box office performance. Released in the spring of 2012, Battleship was made for an astounding $220 million but grossed just $300 million at the worldwide box office.