Movies and TV have made huge strides towards giving us awesome-looking superheroics, but let's face it: aliens still mostly look like Hare Krishnas after a candle-related accident. Here are the 10 most ridiculous alien head modifications from classic scifi.
The Pathetic Rationalization: Snails are already kind of alien, right? They're French, which is like being from another planet. And you can sort of imagine them twitching — which they never do, since they're glued to a guy's forehead. But if you squint, they sort of twitch. And back in the day, there was something kind of meta about using a television with an antenna to watch a guy with an antenna on his head.
The Reality Check: Sadly, those are the only nice things we can say about the antennae. They're totally silly looking, and your head will hurt trying to imagine a species that evolved looking just like us, except for the funny antennae.
The Pathetic Rationalization: They're sharp. They're classic. We wouldn't find Spock nearly as slashfic-worthy without them. And hey — maybe a lot of species just evolved with extra sensitive hearing because there were a TON of really quiet predators on their worlds? And the pointiness or crinkliness makes the ears extra-sensitive? You know it makes sense.
The Reality Check: Ummm... They're just glue-on fake ears. Actually, Spock gets a free pass, but everyone who's sported potstickers or omelettes stuck to their ears since then has no excuse. None. It's unoriginal and cheap-looking.
The Pathetic Rationalization: When the Klingons first started getting knobbly on their heads back in 1979, it was a step above the weird engine-grease-on-face look they had before. And it's definitely a step towards putting the "oid" in "humanoid." And think about it — all of those lumps probably provide amazing protection against getting head-butted, or hit on the head with an anvil. Befitting a warrior species, really.
The Reality Check: So let's just give Klingons a pass, Why not? Trying to sort out their cranial discrepancies gives us something to do on long evenings (even with the Manny Coto retcon.) But everybody else who's gotten the cornfield-on-head thing has to find a new gimmick, stat. It's gotten so there's an infinitely diverse cosmos full of different head injuries. Trek is, of course, the worst offender — but by no means the only one. Let's just agree that a head blob is not a species marker.
The Pathetic Rationalization: Who would want to diss the green women? After all, they're a staple of science fiction, with their Shakespeare appropriating, sexy-dancing ways. And if it wasn't for greasepaint, how would we ever have learned not to hate the half-black, half-white people? Plus, it makes total sense: On other planets, the sunlight is probably harmful at other wavelengths besides UV, and so people need to have green pigment to protect themselves against the UltraLime rays. Right? Right?
The Reality Check: Okay, come on. Any alien whose face looks like a five-year-old who got to go to the face-painting tent at the county fair is not passing muster.
Extra Heads Or Limbs
The Pathetic Rationalization: We all love Zaphod Beeblebrox (and we were deeply saddened when the long-awaited movie version of Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy didn't even try to give us a proper, convincing two-headed President Zaphod.) And the book makes it clear the extra head and arm are just a prosthetic decoration that Zaphod decided to try out, so it's not strictly an alien biology thing anyway. Plus, why wouldn't humanoids have an extra redundant bit here or there?
The Reality Check: In practice, it just looks ridiculous — just look at the TV version of H2G2.
Random Mythological Drag
The Pathetic Rationalization: Oh wow. It turns out all our myths about Kali/Shiva/Santa Claus/Satan/Patient Zero are based on a real being, who visited our world at some point in a time when people were easily impressed by fake horns. Dude, it actually makes total sense. It's not just an alien who happens to look like Papa Smurf, it's the alien whom all the Papa Smurf legends are based on. Can you not see it?
The Reality Check: Cheap Devil costume looks cheap. Also, the aliens-gave-us-our-mythology storyline is almost as tired as the humans-visit-prehistoric-Earth-and-become-Adam-and-Eve thing. Mostly, though, it's just a cheap gimmick for recycling terrible Halloween costumes as aliens.
Funny Glasses/Weird Contact Lenses
The Pathetic Rationalization: Umm... well, maybe they're really kind of reptilian but they're disguised as humans, except for the eyes. See above, about UltraLime radiation — maybe you need weird eyes to see in UltraLime light. (Not to be confused with ultra-limelight.) Plus who doesn't love the alien who looks like us, until he takes off his Ray-Bans? Communists and Anti-syndicalists, mainly.
The Reality Check: Umm... contact lenses? Silly glasses? Is there any way for that not to look cheap and ridiculous? That's actually not a rhetorical question — we'd like to know.
The Pathetic Rationalization: Okay, so it makes total sense for aliens to come to Earth disguised as bikers. Like maybe their physiology is really really different than ours, but they just put on leathers and helmets so they'll fit in. That totally makes sense. Also, if you think about it, motorcycle gear looks a lot like a spacesuit. I bet you never thought of that. It only just occurred to us, actually.
The Reality Check: There's really only one question that applies here: Is your alien named Lobo? No? Then you just lost your only justification for making him/her/it look like a biker. End of story. Seriously, it looks cheap.
The Pathetic Rationalization: Well, a lot of species evolve to look kind of similar, except that they don't evolve the same kind of styling foam we do. Or maybe the water on their planet is more impure, so shampoo doesn't work the same way it does here. Did you ever think about that?
The Reality Check: Okay, really? Silly hair? That's all you've got? Manic Panic is a gateway to a strange new world? Let's just agree that a little dab will not do a whole new species. Our personal favorites are Doctor Who's Movellans — granted, they're robots, but we're supposed to think they're aliens at first, and what makes them an alien species? Silver Bo Derek hair. Yay!
Baldness (with Optional Buttcrack Attachment)
The Pathetic Rationalization: Maybe this species never evolved hair? Plus, it totally makes sense, if you ponder all the totally bald people you know in your own life — they're all kind of aliens, aren't they? Their heads are so shiny! And have you ever noticed that a fully bald person can raise his/her eyebrows much higher than the rest of us? I witnessed a bald man's eyebrows hovering around the top of his head the other day. And if you ever meet a woman who's got zero hair on her head, it really is true that she's from a nymphomaniac species that kills with sex. It's not even a metaphor, it's just true. Follicles dampen your sex drive (in women, anyway.)
The Reality Check: This is the absolute worst. We can give you the elf-ears, the eventful foreheads, the snail feelers. But baldness? Really? Also, given how frequently bald aliens also have anuses on their heads... it's just not a good idea.
Seriously, VFX industry. You gave us Gollum. You gave us Spider-Man swinging through the city without looking arthritic or epileptic. You gave us Doug Jones. You even managed to make Kelsey Grammer-as-blue-furry-guy look kind of acceptable. What the hell?