Top 10 Movies That RIPPED OFF the Alien Franchise
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Written by George Pacheco
Movies that borrowed from, paid homage to, or blatantly stole from the Alien franchise. WatchMojo present the top 10 Movies that Ripped off the Alien franchise. But what will take the top spot on our list? Inseminoid, The Abyss, or Forbidden World? Watch to find out!
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In space, no one can hear you steal. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Movies that Ripped Off the “Alien” Franchise.
For this list, we’ll be ranking the films which, for better or worse, drew inspiration from, leaned heavily on or straight up ripped off “Alien.” For the record, we’re not saying that these films are necessarily bad; in fact, many of them are quite enjoyable. But if any film made the cut, you can be sure that it is indebted to the “Alien” franchise one way or another.
#10: “Species” (1995)
Few sci-fi films or franchises can boast innovative creature designs like those found in “Alien”, which were co-created by H.R. Giger. This wasn’t the only property to feature the work of this noted Swiss surrealist however, as the influential painter went on to create concept art for the alien in the 1995 feature “Species.” The antagonist in the film may have been portrayed in human form by Natasha Henstridge, but there’s no denying the similarities between Henstridge’s true form, Sil, and the terror of Giger’s Xenomorphs. Whether it’s Sil’s cold elegance, her pronounced features or her tendency to invade host bodies for propagation, the connection between “Species” and “Alien” is quite strong.
#9: “Creature” (1985)
Speaking of special effects, the design team for our next film actually collaborated on James Cameron’s “Aliens” only a year after working on this less-than-inspired knock-off. Robert and Dennis Skotak designed the parasitic alien species here in “Creature,” who infect and pick off members of a space crew responding to a distress signal. If this plot device sounds familiar, that’s because it’s not so subtly nicked from screenwriter Dan O’Bannon’s “Alien” script. Nevertheless, “Creature,” or as it’s called in its original, uncut version, “Titan Find,” is an action-packed space romp that was actually nominated for two Saturn Awards the year it was released - “Best Horror Film” and “Best Special Effects.”
#8: “Shocking Dark” (1989)
“Shocking Dark” is our first Italian film, but rest assured, it won’t be the last. Back in the day, the country’s movie industry was notorious for producing shameless knock-offs of films from a variety of popular genres. Also known as “Terminator 2,” this 1989 flick was blatantly marketed as a sequel to James Cameron’s Terminator, despite a complete lack of affiliation. In actuality, “Shocking Dark,” or “Alienators,” as it’s also also known is more accurately a rip-off of Cameron’s “Aliens,” in that it features a group of ragtag soldiers engaging in battle with vicious, otherworldly creatures. Director Bruno Mattei and screenwriter Claudio Fragasso, of “Troll 2” fame, did make sure to include an unstoppable cyborg, but make no mistake: Schwarzenegger this definitely is not.
#7: “Pitch Black” (2000)
The subterranean, photophobic aliens that serve as the main threat in this surprise science fiction hit work as the main thematic link between director David Twohy’s “Pitch Black” and the “Alien” franchise. This is due primarily to the feelings of fright and tension to which Twohy’s characters are subjected, as they’re waylaid on an unfamiliar planet together, a small group forced to square off against an alien threat. The big difference? The escaped convict Riddick, played with charismatic cool by Vin Diesel. The film wasn’t exactly embraced by critics upon its initial release, but “Pitch Black” was enough of a success with fans that it spawned not one, but two sequels.
#6: “Contamination” (1980)
We return to Italy once again, this time with director Luigi Cozzi, a man only too familiar with stealing ideas, having helmed the “Star Wars” rip off “Starcrash” in 1979. The plot of “Contamination,” also known as “Toxic Spawn,” or “Alien Contamination,” centers around humanity’s battle against a giant alien Cyclops and its legions of explosive, contaminated eggs. The results of this battle are gooey and splatter-happy, as the victims’ bodies erupt in a manner not entirely dissimilar to the effect of Xenomorph chestbursters in the “Alien” franchise. Cozzi made no efforts to hide his inspiration either - his “Contamination” was reportedly written shortly after his producer saw Scott’s original in the theater.
#5: “Alien 2: On Earth” (1980)
Yet another Italian production, “Alien 2: On Earth” was released less than a year after the original “Alien”, and was falsely marketed as a direct sequel, although alternate titles like “Strangers” and “Alien Terror” were also used. In the film, directed by Ciro Ippolito, a group of people, including a young psychic, explores a mysterious underground cave for signs of extraterrestrial life. Of course, they end up finding it, in the form of a parasitic alien species that seems to enjoy bursting out of its victims' faces. “Alien 2” may suffer from a slow pace and minimalist special effects, but the sheer audacity of the film’s title alone makes it worth watching.
#4: “Galaxy of Terror” (1981)
American producer extraordinaire Roger Corman released his fair share of “Alien” ripoffs during his career, with this 1981 feature serving as one of the more infamous. “Galaxy of Terror” follows a small space crew that’s investigating the downing of a similar vessel on a mysterious planet. They’re eliminated one by one by an unseen alien force, which takes the form of their worst fears. In one particular scene, actress Taaffe O’Connell’s character is raped and killed by a phallic space worm, a distasteful moment that earned “Galaxy of Terror” an X-rating before it was edited. Fun fact: James Cameron worked as Production Designer and Second Unit Director on the film five years before directing “Aliens” in 1986.
#3: “The Abyss” (1989)
We may be mentioning James Cameron a lot, but he’s simply done a ton of work in the science fiction genre. From early art direction on the Corman production, “Battle Beyond the Stars,” to directing hits like “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” the man has serious sci-fi pedigree. “The Abyss” saw the director collaborating once again with “Aliens” actor Michael Biehn as he explores the conflict between a SEAL crew and an unknown, underwater (wait for it…) alien force. Cameron manages to develop themes of estranged love and political tension amidst frantic, “human vs. alien” conflict, creating a compelling and satisfying sci-fi thriller that is at once clearly indebted to the “Alien” franchise, and also an entirely different sort of film.
#2: “Forbidden World” (1982)
Have you ever wondered what “Alien” might look like with gratuitous nudity, cheaper special effects and a funkier synth soundtrack? No? Well, here’s “Forbidden World” anyway, another Roger Corman production that shared sets and footage with two of the producer’s aforementioned sci-fi productions, “Galaxy of Terror” and “Battle Beyond the Stars.” The film, which also goes by the title “Mutant,” follows a scientific crew that’s attacked by an experimental life form referred to as “Subject 20”. Honestly, it looks just like an insectoid cousin of the Xenomorph. “Forbidden World” is messy, violent fun with a superbly bouncy soundtrack from Susan Justin that demands some beer, a pizza and good friends for prime movie night enjoyment.
Before we name our final “Alien” rip-off, here are a few guilty-as-charged honorable mentions:
- “Pandorum” (2009)
- “Zeiram” (1991)
- “Event Horizon” (1997)
#1: “Inseminoid” [aka “Horror Planet”] (1981)
Take a group of scientists investigating a mysteriously ruined civilization, add in an alien hell bent on propagating its race at all costs, and what do you get? One of the most talked-about “Alien” rip-offs in B-movie history. Actually, both 20th Century Fox and “Inseminoid” director Norman J. Warren have refuted claims that this British sci-fi/horror film was influenced by “Alien,” but critics and fans have said differently, calling the similarities blatant. While “Inseminoid” has been harshly criticized over the years for its take on feminine sexuality and gender roles, its exploration of “masculine anxiety regarding female reproductive capacity” has been the subject of academic study. Cheap rip-off or not, we’re still talking about it decades later.