Prep for the Pentagon UFO report with these 10 extraterrestrial movies - RED - Relevant. Essential. Denver.

Prep for the Pentagon UFO report with these 10 extraterrestrial movies

Cinema expert Vincent Piturro offers up flick picks to welcome the upcoming government report on ‘unexplained aerial phenomena’ – and any intergalactic visitors you may closely encounter.

June 22, 2021

By Cory Phare

Members of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee are slated to receive a classified briefing this month on “unexplained aerial phenomena” – a.k.a., the Pentagon UFO Report.

And though the hotly anticipated disclosure isn’t expected to settle the debate between skeptics who say alien talk is a bunch of hot air (balloons) and those who want to believe, the prospect of extraterrestrial encounters has captured popular imagination for ages.

“One common theme in all of science fiction is addressing what it means to be human,” said Vincent Piturro, PH.D., professor of English and Cinema Studies at Metropolitan State University of Denver. “When we encounter aliens and UFOs, are we reacting militaristically or peacefully? Are we working together or not?”

So, as this saucerful of secrets comes to light, RED interviewed Piturro for his top space-invader film takes.


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The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951)

“One generalization we often see is a spacecraft coming down with the expectations of hostile intentions. In this 1951 film set against a Cold War backdrop, immediately the aliens are surrounded by the Army and perceived as a threat; this obscures their true message as a warning for humanity’s nuclear disarmament – or else.”

Arrival” (2016)

“A similar situation occurs in this 2016 film: In trying to determine why aliens come to Earth, linguists translate one of their words into ‘weapon.’ This is seen as hostile, of course, but in reality, it’s a powerful tool related to the dimensionality of time with a much different intent.”

War of the Worlds” (1938)

“The 1897 H.G. Wells book spawned Orson Welles’ 1938 radio broadcast where panicked listeners did not realize the Martian invasion was fictional. This led to more skepticism as people became familiarized with the media form and sparked the imagination as the “Golden Age” of science fiction took root in the 1940s and ’50s. The “War of the Worlds” films that followed in 1953 and 2005 were forgettable, but there’s a current adaptation on Epix that’s excellent, albeit very different from the source material.”

Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1978)

“An environmental sci-fi movement took off after World War II, looking at the impact of nuclear bombs and the potential for killing off the planet. This film has an underlying theme of the effect of pollution on the planet – and how that changes us as humans.”

Alien” (1979)

“This popular Ridley Scott-directed release actually doesn’t touch Earth and stays in space. It’s your classic Hollywood protagonist romp where the ‘good guys’ take on extremely hostile creatures who want to kill everyone.”

2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)

“The big one – this Stanley Kubrick classic’s whole premise is about humanity taking objects and making them into weapons; it starts with a bone and becomes the orbiting satellite space bomb. It asks us who we are – and suggests alien civilizations reflect that onto us.”  

Other Piturro picks: "Interstellar" (2014), "Children of Men" (2006), "Upstream Color" (2013), "Perfect Sense" (2011).

Piturro’s forthcoming book, “The Science of Sci Fi Film,” arrives on Earth this fall.

Catch him as part of this year’s Sci-Fi Film Series, in conjunction with Denver Film and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Screenings in the museum’s Imax theatre will be followed by discussions of the art and science behind each movie.

Schedule and ticket links:

6/22 – “Independence Day

7/13 – “Metropolis 

7/22 – “Jurassic Park


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