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Silver Screen Saucers: Sorting Fact from Fantasy in Hollywood’s UFO Movies: Die Die by Robbie Graham


“We’re aliens; that’s what we do –
we come to planets, we destroy them, we move on.”

— Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade), The Watch (2012)

Extraterrestrials seek to conquer our planet and claim it as their own. Their motivation stems either from desperation or despotism: their own planet is dying or its people are suffering due to a lack of essential resources, or else they have reached us as an inevitability in their cold quest for galactic empire. Whatever their justification for invasion, the aliens regard humanity as an obstruction to be smashed, or as a pest to be squashed.

This is a generic silver screen scenario – Hollywood loves a good alien movie, and much more so if its aliens are evil. From The Thing from Another World and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, to They Live and Independence Day, to Battle: Los Angeles and Battleship, overwhelmingly, Hollywood’s aliens have been malevolent creatures – sometimes monstrous, sometimes invisible and parasitic, but almost always invasive.

But just how plausible is the concept of an alien invasion of Earth, and how realistic are Hollywood’s depictions of how such an invasion might unfold in light of what we know, or what we think we know, about the UFO phenomenon? Moreover, what do scientists and the military have to say about the possibility of an alien attack? Some of Hollywood’s alien species favor conquest by stealth, others through sheer fire power. This chapter takes a look at the silver screen’s most notable alien invasions, silent and invisible, explosive and spectacular, charting them chronologically and in parallel with real-world UFO occurrences.


Though it may come as a surprise to many, debates surrounding extraterrestrial invasion are not restricted to Hollywood and the UFO community. In recent years, mainstream science and even the US defense establishment have openly discussed ‘falling skies’ scenarios and what humanity might do to repel potential alien aggressors.

In April 2010, Professor Stephen Hawking made headlines by stating his firm belief that humanity should seek to avoid extraterrestrial contact: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the American Indians.” Hawking suggested that aliens “might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet” and would perhaps be “looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach.” 1

Two years later, in April 2012, Professor Paul Springer of the US Air Command and Staff College was granted special clearance by his employers at the Pentagon to discuss how the military would respond in the event of an alien invasion. Springer’s comments were aired in a televised interview for Australia’s Channel 9.

When asked by his interviewer exactly how an alien invasion might unfold, Springer replied:

That really depends on why they are here in the first place. If they are here for the extraction of a specific resource, for example, they might just want to eliminate any resistance that might block them from their objective. If, on the other hand, their goal was actual occupation and conquest, then they would probably have to prioritize anything they perceive as a threat to their own dominance. So, they would probably start by wiping out as many communications networks as possible and eliminating as many weapons that might represent some form of threat either to them, or to the resources they are trying to extract.

Springer suggested that the aliens would likely be concerned about our nuclear weapons, but not necessarily for the reason we might expect: “They might very well want to counter every nuclear weapon, not because it represented a threat to them, but because it might destroy whatever they’re here to collect.”

Springer’s comment about aliens wanting to neutralize our nuclear capabilities is especially interesting in light of the US government’s own declassified files documenting persistent UFO activity over nuclear weapons storage facilities over a span of four decades. In many of these instances, UFOs were reported as tampering with the weapons themselves, activating and deactivating them with disquieting ease.

Springer was also asked by his interviewer, “Wouldn’t it be a strange situation if humanity had to band together, fighting alongside Russia, or I guess, the Taliban?” He responded, “It would, but keep in mind that many of the greatest civilizations in human history have been formed, basically, to counter a common enemy. When you look at the great world powers of the globe today, you find a lot of them formed because of the fear of a common enemy.” 2

The nations of the world being brought together to thwart an alien aggressor is a notion that has been discussed publicly by influential individuals in the spheres of politics, science, and finance. Famously, in an address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 21 September 1987, President and former B-movie star Ronald Reagan said:

In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside of this world. And yet, I ask you, is not an alien force already among us? 3

Referencing this statement in July 2012, theoretical physicist Professor Michio Kaku told CNN, “Ronald Reagan was probably right – if we are ever invaded by the Martians or some advanced civilization we would hunker down, we would get together to fight off the Martians.” 4
In August of the previous year, the Nobel prize-winning economist Professor Paul Krugman made headlines when, during a debate on CNN with Harvard economist Ken Rogoff, he stated that an alien invasion, whether real or staged by the United States government, would actually serve to stimulate the US economy thanks to the massively increased defense spending it would justify. Krugman said, “If we discovered that, you know, space aliens were planning to attack and we needed a massive buildup to counter the space alien threat and really inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months.” 5
Krugman’s statements elicited some interesting responses from other persons of influence, including SETI’s Professor Seth Shostak, who told The Huffington Post:

Any aliens that have the capability to come here and ruin our whole day by vaporizing Earth or terrorizing its hominid inhabitants, would be centuries – perhaps millennia – beyond our technical level. To spend effort preparing for such a lugubrious possibility would be like the Neanderthals organizing their society to defend themselves against the U.S. Air Force.

Shostak added, “That won’t do them much good on the battlefield. But who’s to say? Maybe it would improve the Neanderthal economy.” 6

These statements are notable, but the discourse on the possibility of alien invasion goes considerably beyond a handful of soundbites from public figures. Take, for example, the 2006 book An Introduction to Planetary Defense: A Study of Modern Warfare Applied to Extra-Terrestrial Invasion, which was written not by a tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorist, but by a group of space scientists and engineers who have spent years working for the likes of BAE Systems, NASA, and the US Department of Defense.

According to the authors, their book is “a starting point for developing defensive and offensive concepts in the event of an attack from advanced extraterrestrials,” and is not an attempt to “refute, discuss, defend, or even enter into an argument about government conspiracies, UFO cover-ups, alien autopsies, or any other examples of the ‘UFOlogy’ genre.” 7

The book discusses the statistical probability of an ET invasion, the possible types of ETs that might invade our planet, their possible motives for invasion, the types of weapons they might use against us, and how exactly we might go about defending ourselves.


In light of such fear-mongering, it is worth asking, have UFOs and their alleged occupants ever exhibited an invasive or hostile intent? The short answer is, not really. At least, nothing to hang your hat on as a general statement of malevolence or a conscious desire to cause us harm. Indeed, as will be documented in Chapter Four, in a great many cases of reported human-alien contact the experiencer describes their close encounter/s as being at the very least benign, and often joyous and spiritually transcendental. That said, there are more than a few cases scattered across the decades that have sparked debate about whether or not the UFOnauts have our best interests at heart.
Foo Fighters were reported by military personnel in the theatre of war from the early-to-mid-1940s. Naturally, these reports were a cause of serious concern for governments, and details were collated and analyzed to determine if the mystery objects – seemingly physical craft under intelligent control – were the product of one or more terrestrial enemy nations (a theory that led nowhere). But, although Foo Fighters sometimes came perilously close to allied aircraft, none of these encounters could reasonably be interpreted as hostile. If anything, the Foo Fighters acted like benign observers, curious about our technology and our primitive in-species conflicts. 8

It wasn’t long, though, before the UFOs chalked up their first human fatality. On 7 January 1948, Captain Thomas Mantell, a 25 year old Kentucky Air National Guard Pilot, died while in pursuit of an Unidentified Flying Object. Mantell, who was honored with the Distinguished Flying Cross for his part in the Battle of Normandy, was one of four pilots ordered by the 156th Fighter Squadron to investigate UFO reports coming in to a number of military bases in Kentucky that afternoon, including Goldman Field at Fort Knox and Clinton County Army Airfield. The UFO was reported by military personnel as being up to 300ft in diameter, and white with a red border at the bottom. 

The pilots, who were in radio communication with the control tower at Fort Knox, were ordered to approach the object, but it was now at a considerable altitude and appeared as little more than a dot in the sky. The pilots were then advised to break off direct pursuit and to level their altitude, a suggestion ignored by Mantell, who continued to climb in chase of the object. As Mantell got closer to the UFO, he told the control tower it looked “metallic,” and was of “tremendous size.” They would be some of his last words. It is thought that he blacked out soon after due to lack of oxygen. His plane spiralled to the ground, crashing on a farm south of Franklin, Kentucky. The cause of Mantell’s crash as listed by the Air Force officially remains ‘undetermined.’ 9

Little green men

Another disturbing UFO encounter occurred in 1955. On the evening of August 21, two families at a rural farmhouse near the towns of Kelly and Hopkinsville in Kentucky were besieged by small, non-human entities.

Around 7pm, Billy Ray Taylor went outside for a drink from the farm’s water pump when he saw a bright disc-shaped object in the sky to the west. Excited, he rushed back inside to report his sighting, but his account was met with incredulity. An hour later the families began hearing unusual noises coming from outside, and the dog in the yard began barking loudly. This prompted Taylor and Elmer “Lucky” Sutton to grab their guns and investigate. Stepping outside, the two men observed a strange humanoid creature emerging from the trees nearby, which approached to within 20 feet of them. It was at this point that the men opened fire, one using a shotgun, the other using a .22 rifle. The men then heard a noise “like bullets being rattled about in a metal drum,” and the creature, apparently unharmed, disappeared into the darkness. Before the men could give chase, they noticed another creature identical to the first perched on the roof of the farm. The men shot it, knocking it to the ground below. Again, their gunshots elicited a strange rattling noise, and the creature appeared unharmed.

As the night wore on, a total of seven family members would set eyes on the creatures, which repeatedly approached the house, peering in through windows almost playfully and scurrying about on the roof. They were shot at repeatedly, but never wounded. The witnesses described the creatures as two-and-a-half-feet tall, with silvery skin or clothing, large pointed ears, claw-like hands, and large yellow eyes. Their arms and legs were spindly, almost emaciated, and, perhaps most notably, they seemed to defy gravity as they were seen floating above the ground, propelling themselves with a distinctive hip-swaying action and steering with their arms.

Finally, at around 11pm, the terrified witnesses piled into their cars and fled to the Hopkinsville police station, whereupon twenty officers were dispatched to the farmhouse to investigate. Upon the officers’ arrival the creatures had vanished, but evidence of a recent violent commotion was plain to see. The witnesses’ account was corroborated in part by other individuals, including several local policemen and a state trooper who had been in the vicinity earlier that night and had seen strange lights in the sky and heard bizarre noises. The witnesses’ neighbors also confirmed having heard multiple gunshots from the farm house on the night in question.
The local press reported on the incident the following day, referring to the creatures as “little men.” By the time the national news media got hold of the story, the little men had become “little green men,” despite the witnesses having described them as being silver.

The witnesses themselves neither sought nor gained money or fame from their testimonies, and all stuck to their story until the day they died. The local police, who believed the witnesses had experienced something truly extraordinary, labeled the case as “unexplained.” Today, even UFO skeptics have few doubts about the sincerity of the witnesses, and the best earthly explanation yet offered for the Kentucky farm siege attributes it to the misidentification of meteors. The humanoid creatures, say the doubters, were angry owls. 10

Sinister forces

In May 1962, legendary US Army General Douglas MacArthur made public statements about what he perceived to be a potential threat to Earth from extraterrestrials. During a speech to cadets of the US Military Academy at West Point, MacArthur said:

We deal now, not with things of this world alone, but with the illimitable distances and as yet unfathomed mysteries of the universe…We speak in strange terms, of harnessing the cosmic energy… of ultimate conflict between a united human race and the sinister forces of some other planetary galaxy. 11

MacArthur had made a similar statement to the Mayor of Naples, Achille Lauro, in 1955. In an October 7 meeting between the two men that took place in New York, General MacArthur told Lauro that the nations of Earth would one day be forced to “make a common front against attack by people from other planets.” 12

What inspired such comments from one of America’s most celebrated military leaders may never be known for sure, but it seems reasonable to assume that an officer of MacArthur’s stature and longevity would almost certainly have had at least some exposure to classified information pertaining to the UFO issue.

“It’s not an aircraft”

Yet another aircraft would be lost in an apparent UFO encounter in 1978. On October 21, at 7:12 pm, 20-year-old Frederick Valentich and the Cessna 182L light aircraft he was piloting mysteriously vanished over Australia’s Bass Strait.
Shortly prior to his disappearance Valentich had advised Melbourne air traffic control that he was being orbited by a large craft some 300 meters above him. Valentich said the craft was long, with a shiny metal surface and a green light on it. He then reported that the craft was approaching him from the Southwest. Moments later, the young pilot made what would be his final statement to air traffic control – or to anyone: “[the] strange aircraft is hovering on top of me again. It is hovering and it’s not an aircraft.” This was followed by 17 seconds of “metallic scraping sounds.” No trace of Valentich or his aircraft was ever found. The cause of his disappearance remains undetermined. 13

It is examples such as these that have long appealed to creatives in the entertainment industry: where there’s the unknown, there’s fear; where there’s fear, there’s drama; and where there’s drama, there’s money. Add spectacle to the drama and, potentially, there’s sacks of money. It makes sense, then, that the inherently spectacular scenario of alien invasion continues to play out at the worldwide box-office.

“Die Die” is an excerpt from Silver Screen Saucers: Sorting Fact from Fantasy in Hollywood’s UFO Movies by Robbie Graham, published by White Crow Books.

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Missing Time by Budd Hopkins – Since World War II, tens of thousands of reports of unidentified flying objects have been gathered, officially and unofficially, by the United States Air Force and myriad other governmental and civilian investigative organizations around the world.1 Like Astronaut McDivitt’s “cylinder with antennas,” these objects are often described as being mechanically structured, metallic, and very frequently as behaving as if they were under intelligent control. The thousands of similar, enigmatic reports from across the world mean that no matter what realities may lie behind it, the UFO phenomenon exists as an undeniable fact of life. Read here
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