Just because science fiction has a low budget, doesn't mean its alien creatures need to look silly or ho-hum. Here are 10 low-budget alien spectaculars that blew our minds.
Some people interpreted last week's top 10 list of silly alien prosthetics as hating on low-budget science fiction, or dissing the hard work of makeup artists — and that was definitely not the intention. But when you've seen the same few ideas crop up again and again, you tend to get a bit jaded.
For me, personally, Star Trek in the 1990s and early 2000s ruined me for boring humanoid aliens. After the endless parade of people in vinyl pajamas, with different smushy bits of latex on their faces every week, I got rubber-nose fatigue. There's a lot to love about 1990s Trek — Deep Space Nine was frequently brilliant and prescient, and Voyager had some standout episodes — but the infinite assembly of silly faces was not one of the things I loved.
Oh, and the picture above is from Davosmith's amazing Flickr set of Manchester's Fab Cafe. Here's another image from the same set, featuring another one of the creatures on this list:
So here are ten aliens that were obviously done on a shoestring budget, but which absolutely knock your space boots off:
10. The Daleks, on Doctor Who.
The evil genetically engineered cyborgs on Doctor Who are like mini-tanks with buzzing bee voices, and they scared the pants off generations of British (and some American) kids. They've had their ups and downs — if the first Dalek story you saw was "Day Of The Daleks," "Destiny Of The Daleks," "Remembrance Of The Daleks" or the recent one where they turn people into pigs and then dress in zoot suits, you won't understand what the fuss is about. Watch "Genesis Of The Daleks" or "Dalek." (Before you jump on me in comments, I do like "Remembrance," except the Daleks wobble horribly and look just decrepit.) In their prime, though, the Daleks glide along, rasping with anger and pointing their terrible egg-whisk guns. They're utterly cheap — and horrifying. And you only occasinally Runners up: debatable whether the Cybermen are aliens, but they do often look cool. Also, the Draconians and Zygons make the rubber-mask thing look brilliant, and the Forest of Cheem also doesn't look bad at all. I also like the Slitheen, but only design-wise.
9. The Aliens from The Arrival.
Directed by David "Pitch Black" Twohy, this 1996 alien invasion film was probably made for three Snickers wrappers and a handful of arcade tokens — but I really love the look of these aliens, and they way they move on their weird satyr-ish horse legs. Here's a slinky alien transforming itself into a hawt babe, probably because it just watched Species. Also, I love the flaps that cover up its brain, and how they undulate. Nice stuff!
8. The Visitors from V.
They look human most of the time, but when we get the occasional glimpse of their real lizard faces under their human masks, it's super-effective — as long as we don't linger. Here are a couple of choice moments. I love Diana picking at the shreds of her human disguise, like they're a scab (at about 4:00 in the first video). And the speech in the second video is the greatest thing ever:
7. Greedo and the other cantina aliens, in Star Wars.
Weirdly, later live-action Star Wars movies have never featured aliens that felt as interesting and lively as the first glimpse we got in that cantina scene. Of course, we've already exposited about our love for Greedo, but all of the quick glimpses of aliens in this scene have a liveliness that makes you feel like they're each the star of a cool story. Not bad for an underdog film with a tiny $8.5 million budget (not much even in 1977) whose crew was busy trashing the set and making fun of the Wookiee costume.