This summer’s most surprising break out character is the alien tree person from Planet X best known as “Groot” from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. The nine foot tall bipedal alien doesn’t say much, but he makes up for it in his warm and friendly expressions. He has joined the ranks of many beloved aliens to grace the silver screen, as he fought, charmed, and danced his way into our hearts.
Certainly, he was one of my favorite characters in the movie. In honor of Groot, here is a list of my other favorite aliens from science fiction film and television. While we may have had a favorite character in these stories, these strange creatures still found a way into our hearts and became our best friends in these strange worlds. Along the way, they’ve even taught us what it means to be human.
1. E.T. : E.T. was the first sci-fi movie I ever saw. I was three years old at the time, and while most of my peers were scared of him, I loved him. He was a lost and lonely alien who just wanted to go home. Like Groot he said little, but thanks to the wizardry of Stuart Freeborn his face conveyed so much kindness and his eyes seemed so wise and friendly it was hard not to love him. When he healed Elliot’s wounds, we wanted him to do the same for us, and when he made that bike soar, our hearts went right with him . When he pointed at Elliot’s heart and told him, “I’ll be right here.” He wasn’t just promising him, he was promising us as well.
2. Superman: As far back as 1939 we knew he was a “strange visitor from another world.” He’s strong and powerful, and could very well destroy a city if he wanted, yet he chooses to be a defender. He can go toe-to-toe with intergalactic bad guys, yet he has no qualms helping a girl get a kitty out of a tree. He reminds us that there’s are times to be strong and tough, yet also times when compassion and mercy are needed.
3. Yoda (Star Wars series)- When I was a kid, I freaked when Yoda came on screen and sounded “almost like Grover” from Sesame Street” Wise, venerable, and powerful this pint sized Jedi Master has seen over 900 years of life, and suffered through some of the darkest days. At the same time he still has an air of whimsy about him. Considered the wisest and most powerful Jedi, he challenges our perceptions of him from the moment we first meet him. Who would expect that some one so diminutive would be able to raise an X-Wing fighter from a swamp, or someone who seems so old could be so skilled with a lightsaber. Along the way, Yoda teaches us something new each time as he tells Luke “Size matters not.”
4. Chewbacca ( Star Wars series )- Aside from an assortment of grunts and growls Chewbacca, or “Chewie” to his friends, doesn’t speak. But that’s ok. Somehow, we all seem to understand him as much as his friends Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo seem to do. While he has a reputation for being a fierce warrior, Chewie is like the big, lovable, loyal, furry dog that we all knew. The kind who’d lay his life down for us in a heart beat, and yet also snuggle up to us and keep us warm at night. While I may have fancied myself Luke Skywalker, Chewie is the first person I’d want in my corner.
5. Spock ( Star Trek)-Captain Kirk’s right hand man…err Vulcan. The USS Enterprise wouldn’t have been the same place without the green-blooded hobgoblin to try and advise Kirk. While he seems emotionless, Spock struggles not only with his peoples past, but his half human heritage. While he normally tries to continually do the right thing based on logic, when the chips are really down and the lives of his crew are threatened, Spock is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and lay his life down for his friends because it is morally the right thing to do. To quote Captain Kirk, “of all the souls I’ve encountered in all my travels, his was most human.”
J’onn J’onnzz/ Martian Manhunter ( Justice League). I don’t care what David Goyer says . Martain Manhunter is a cool character. He’s a shape shifter and a telepath. He and Superman have a lot in common as they are both aliens, but J’onn is more extreme as unlike Superman, he has to go to greater lengths to hide his alienness. While Clark can live among humanity, and even have a romance with a human woman, J’onn has none of that. At the same time, he is called by Superman the soul of the league.
Plus his niece, M’gann M’ross/ Miss Martian is a cutie.
Norrin Radd/Silver Surfer- Long before he became the Sentinel of the space ways, Norrin Radd offered himself up as a sacrifice to Galactus devourer of worlds to save his home from annihilation. In exchange, he would travel the cosmos on a silver surf board, emboldened by the power cosmic. He served his master faithfully, until arriving on Earth and meeting The Fantastic Four and their friend Alicia Masters. They reminded him of the “humanity” he lost and risked his life to save Earth from his former master.
“The Grey Man” ( Close Encounters of the Third Kind)- Unlike a lot of aliens in film, “The Grey Man” as he has been called doesn’t even appear until the very end of the film. Tall and spindly, he looks like the stereotype of the alien. He says nothing, but simply smiles and exchanges the friendly greeting with Lacombe, telling us all that “they come in peace.”
Gordon Shumay/ALF ( ALF)- This guy just cracks me up. Always has since I was a kid. Despite how much he annoys the Tanner family at times, he really does care for them. Kind of like in a family. You may annoy each other at times, but in the end you always care for each other.
Gonzo The Great ( The Muppets) Ok, so for many Muppet fans it was an insult to them when the movie Muppets From Space decided to strip Gonzo of his mysterious past and make him an alien form another planet. However, that is why he is only listed in honorable mention. A funny risk taker, Gonzo teaches us anything is possible and that if we try hard enough we too can get shot out of a canon, recite the complete works of Shakespeare while riding a unicycle through a vat of Tapioca, or know the story of Dickens Christmas Carol like the back of our hand and tell an excellent rendition of it too.. Most importantly he shows us that no matter how weird or different or out of this world we may seem , as long as we have a family we’re never alone.
Photo Credits: 2014 Disney/Marvel Studios, 2008 DC Comics, 1982 Universal Studios, 1980 LucasFilm/20th Century Fox/Disney, 1977 LucasFilm/20th Century Fox/Disney, 1966 Paramount Studios, 2003 Warner Bros.Animation Studios/Cartoon Network, 2010 Warner Bros. Animation Studios/Cartoon Network, 1965 Marvel Comics, 1977 Columbia Pictures, 1986 Alien Productions/Warner Bros. Television, 2009 Muppet Studios/Walt Disney
Superman drawn by Gary Frank. Silver Surfer drawn by Jack Kirby