The 10 Best Kid-Friendly Alien Pals, Ranked
Aliens are always en vogue when it come to blockbuster offerings — after all, why else are audiences still clamoring to see another ‘Independence Day’ nearly twenty years after the original hit theaters, complete with one of cinema’s best (and most misheard) line deliveries and an already embarrassingly dated take on how computer viruses work? — but as much as we love to yell “welcome to Earf!” to nefarious alien intruders before a good old-fashioned face punching, there’s one thing we love more: befriending them. Aww.
The “kindly alien comes to Earth, needs kid help” is essentially its own sub-genre when it comes to family-friendly adventure films, and Amblin-tinged outings continue to warm the hearts of humans, both big and small (and, also, presumably the hearts of all sizes of aliens, assuming that they’ve managed to tap into our cable networks from billions of miles away, which seems entirely possible). Unlike the big bads that consume both the silver screen and entire cities when they stomp their way through more adult-skewing alien offerings, the extraterrestrial pals that topline kid-friendly films tend to be sweet, clumsy, well-meaning, and adorably inept at social situations.
If we’re not alone in the universe, here’s to hoping that our closest cosmic neighbors are more like these charmers. But if an alien crash-landed in your backyard (or, alternately, if an alien abducted you from your boring little human world), who would you want to keep around for sustained intergalactic friendship? Hope you’ve got enough Reese’s Pieces to keep them happy.
10. Ki, ‘Mars Needs Moms’
No, the Martians from 2011’s terrifying animated outing aren’t very nice — in fact, Simon Wells’ film (based on the popular Berkeley Breathed book of the same name) is populated with some of the most horrifying (and ostensibly kid-friendly) aliens a PG rating has ever spawned. Yet, for all its awful extraterrestrial baddies, ‘Mars Need Moms’ is oddly complimentary of the human race, as the entire film centers on the uncomfortable conceit that Martians are so inept at raising their own little ones that they are compelled to steal a Real Human Mom (the best they can find) to raise their kiddos whenever they hatch a new batch. It’s beyond upsetting, but there is a single Martian who proves to be a friendly to young Milo (who hitches a ride to the planet when they take his mother): the forward-thinking Ki, who is bold enough and smart enough to change both Milo’s life and the entire order of Mars for the better.
9. Cooper, ‘Super 8’
Wait, you don’t remember Cooper? Of course you remember Cooper — you just might not have known his name at the time of your last ‘Super 8′ viewing, which makes plenty of sense, considering the hulking alien that dominates the entire film has only gotten a moniker outside of the J.J. Abrams feature (thanks, Super 8 Wiki!). If there’s one thing that Cooper has, it’s power, and that’s pretty appealing to the younger set (if kid-centric adventure things are about anything, they’re about kids finding out how much they can control, especially when aliens are involved). Sure, he’s kind of scary and he’s not opposed to capturing humans, but there’s also a lingering sense of humanity underneath that thick skin.
8. Max, ‘Flight of the Navigator’
Even the best alien pals can make mistakes — often centered on getting the government involved with what could be a quiet little domestic matter — and the spaceship A.I. known as Max is no different. The 1986 sci-fi film is just as upsetting as ‘Mars Needs Moms,’ albeit with a fuller sense of adventure and the kind of wonder that make it an enduring classic. Max, quite honestly, almost ruins the life of innocent kiddo David, thanks to an ill-timed abduction, the weirdness of time dilation, and a need for a dramatic plot point. Still, Max eventually fixes everything — taking David back in time to have a normal life free of the trappings of being “hey, that kid who was abducted by aliens and then brought back eight years later, having not aged at all” — a smooth resetting of history that instantly endears him.
7. Little Green Men, ‘Toy Story’ franchise
Are they actually aliens? They sure act like it. And while on-screen ‘Toy Story’ canon will have you believe that they’re just promotional items from Pizza Planet, an expanded view on the franchise’s world assures us that, yes, the Little Green Men are aliens (thanks, Disney Wiki!). The Men may seem a bit ditzy, but that’s simply due to the wackiness of the Uni-Mind they’re all linked to, and not a reflection on their smarts — they’re actually all scientists and inventors! Beyond that, they’re small, squishy, funny, and loyal. You can fit them in your pocket and they’ll never do anything to hurt you. Is that all it takes to be a solid alien pal? Well, it’s a fine start. Just keep them away from claw machines.
6. Echo, ‘Earth to Echo’
The eponymous hero of this week’s charming new release, ‘Earth to Echo,’ Echo has got one key alien pal trait in the bag: he’s adorable. Imagine a combination of Wall-E and a cuckoo clock that resembles an owl. Then give him tiny little legs and arms that barely sustain his own weight. Then make him beep to answer things. Then stick him in a tiny spaceship. Boom, your new best friend is here. Echo is also adept at manipulating metal, tricking technology, and advance map-making, kind of like the best lab partner you never had.
5. Grig, ‘The Last Starfighter’
Not every alien pal is cuddly, but if you’re going to take up with an adult alien who traffics in battle, no one is better than Grig. Hey, at least he can teach you to defend yourself, your planet, your honor, and your destiny.
4. Stitch, ‘Lilo & Stitch’
Having your own alien — or even just harboring them for a bit — is tough, touchy business. It’s especially hard when your new alien pet was designed for destruction, turning the “clumsy alien” trope on its head. Acquiring Stich was easy — Lilo and her sister just adopted him at a dog pound, for goodness sakes — but his training was rough and tumble (and also intruded upon by intergalactic baddies). Still, Stitch eventually overcame his nature (with love, duh) and became a valued member of Lilo’s family. He’s still around today, which is why the duo didn’t just spawn a movie, but an entire television series about their youthful hijinks.
3. The Giant, ‘The Iron Giant’
If you’re in the market for an alien race BFF, you might consider investing in size, power, and impenetrable (well, sort of) metal body casings. You might also want to think about getting a pal who will be so loyal and loving that actual memorials are built in his honor. A twist on the “boy and his dog” trope, Brad Bird’s beautiful animated classic is one of the most out-and-out emotional films about alien invasions ever made. The Giant isn’t just a good friend by alien constraints, he’s a good friend no matter how you slice it. (He’s also extremely resilient, kind of an excellent trait for any kiddo play pal.)
2. Gizmo, ‘Gremlins’
By and large, Mowgai are complicated pets and pals — there are so many rules! so few of them make sense! sometimes they try to kill you! — but Gizmo is an example of the best the alien race has to offer. He’s charming, sweet, fluffy, and well-natured. He’s also intelligent enough to understand why all those rules need to be followed, and he’s prepared to do just that, even if his sleepy human owner isn’t. Despite spawning some murderous minions, Gizmo is never less than perfectly behaved, and he’s pretty cuddly to boot.
1. E.T., ‘E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial’
The friendly alien that launched a thousand friendly alien spaceships (and then some), no matter how much trouble the little guy caused (cue more government agents crawling all over your neighborhood), when people think about the kind of alien they want to be best friends with, there’s simply no competition. E.T. is adorable, into playing dress up, a lover of sweet treats, and clever with mechanical parts. He might need a lot of extra attention and he may never learn to ride a bike, but he’s also the prototype for every cute little intergalactic visitor to land on the cinematic Earth in the last three decades.