Who’s your favorite alien?

Just a small sampling of the characters we think are out of this world: Audrey II from Little Shop Of Horrors (Screenshot), the Thermians from Galaxy Quest (Screenshots), a Star Wars Porg, and The Coneheads (Photo: Edie Baskin/Warner Bros./Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Just a small sampling of the characters we think are out of this world: Audrey II from Little Shop Of Horrors (Screenshot), the Thermians from Galaxy Quest (Screenshots), a Star Wars Porg, and The Coneheads (Photo: Edie Baskin/Warner Bros./Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

This week’s AVQ&A is in honor of the upcoming Mass Effect remaster, out next Friday:

Who’s your favorite alien in pop culture?

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E.T., E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

E.T., E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

This might be a basic answer, but E.T. has been my good friend my entire life. His long neck, healing powers, and killer backstory (a botanist left on Earth because he wanted to check out some flowers) make him the kind of alien you’d like to meet. This beer-swilling, BMX bandit is the perfect analog for adolescent angst: misunderstood, ignored, but with limitless potential. Most importantly, E.T. is there for his human pal Elliott, walking him through his first beer, first kiss, and his first time finding himself at the bottom of a ditch. E.T. prepares you for life, man. [Matt Schimkowitz]

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The Thermians, Galaxy Quest

The Thermians, Galaxy Quest

Take stan culture, remove the toxicity, add in stilted, croaking laughter, and you’ve got the Thermians of the Klatu Nebula, Galaxy Quest’s lovable alien species that still has me clapping laterally in delight. Brought to life by ace character actors like Enrico Colantoni, the reliable Missi Pyle, and Rainn Wilson in his first feature role, the naive extraterrestrials are the comedic highlights of the cult classic and its heart (by Grabthar’s Hammer, Quellek’s death always gets me choked up). Whether in cephalopod or angular-haired human form, the Thermians remain a hilariously refreshing spin on the trope of the benevolent alien race. [Cameron Scheetz]

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The Coneheads, Coneheads

The Coneheads, Coneheads

Look, I’m not going to say that scary aliens are bogus, but I’m personally much more into funny, cool aliens. That’s why I have always loved the Coneheads. Growing up, I knew about them from various videos and Comedy Central reruns of SNL, but once the Coneheads movie dropped in 1993, I really got on board. Sure, the critics hated it, but I loved it, and not just because of the presence of Chris Farley. There’s something about the absurdity of Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin in giant prosthetics that I could always really get behind, especially when they’re fumbling through the formalities of trying to assimilate into human society. Just watch one of Curtin’s finest performances in this clip entitled “the birth spasm has begun.” Memories… we will enjoy them. [Marah Eakin]

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5 / 13

Ur-Quan Masters, Star Control II

Ur-Quan Masters, Star Control II

Star Control II could probably fill a list like this all on its own; certainly, it’s not hard to see Mass Effect’s menagerie of extraterrestrial hook-up options as a descendent of the weirdos populating Toys For Bob’s 1992 masterpiece. But as much as I love the cowardly Spathi, the whimsical Zoq-Fot-Pik, or the depressive Utwig, my heart, and my pick, have to go to the game’s titular Ur-Quan Masters. The Ur-Quan encountered in SC2 actually come in two flavors, one of which, the green-skinned Kzer-Za, believe that they will only be safe when all other life in the galaxy has been locked away under impenetrable shields placed around their homeworlds. Their Korh-Ah cousins, meanwhile, find this policy recklessly lenient, insisting that the Ur-Quan will actually only be safe when they’re the only sentient life left in the universe, period. (The Ur-Quan backstory is not a happy one.) Polite, implacable, and convinced of the grim necessity of their work, the Ur-Quan make for tremendous sci-fi villains, importing heady old-school concepts into Star Control’s relentlessly fun space-based action. [William Hughes]

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Porgs, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Porgs, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

My favorite alien in pop culture is Optimus Prime, obviously. I’m not going to pretend it’s anything else to seem cool, even though I’m sure everyone would think I’m smart if I said something like the tentacle monsters from Arrival. But fine, I’ll pick something else: How about any of the Porgs from Star Wars: The Last Jedi? I love how they look and move like physical puppets, and the fact that they were created as stand-ins for a protected colony of puffins means they’re fun and they don’t negatively impact the planet! There are no better aliens (other than most of the Transformers). [Sam Barsanti]

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Ewoks, Star Wars: The Return Of The Jedi

Ewoks, Star Wars: The Return Of The Jedi

Besides Jar Jar Binks, the only other alien—or shall I say aliens—who are just as polarizing in the Star Wars universe are Ewoks. I get it, they’re cute, teddy bear-like creatures who use spears instead of blasters. They’re not the most intimidating bunch in the galaxy, to say the least. But I’m team Ewoks! While E.T. seemed like a good candidate to have as an extraterrestrial friend as a kid, Ewoks are cuter and way more fun: They’re into music, dancing, and bonfires. What’s not to love? [Tatiana Tenreyro]

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8 / 13

Audrey II, Little Shop Of Horrors

Audrey II, Little Shop Of Horrors

No alien rides the line between entertaining and terrifying like Little Shop Of Horrors’ Audrey II. That “mean green mother from outer space” starts out blending in like a Venus fly trap and by the end of the story has devoured the entire cast (unless you watch Frank Oz’s 1986 film version of the musical, which featured a reshot ending after test audiences deemed the original off-Broadway finale too dark). Whether ultimately taken down by a exposed electrical cable or dominating the globe, Audrey II is just a soulful baritone/bass looking for a good meal. [Patrick Gomez]

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9 / 13

The Doctor, Doctor Who

The Doctor, Doctor Who

The first Doctor Who episode I ever watched one of the specials, a two-parter called “The End Of Time.” When I was in college, a friend insisted we watch the series together even though I didn’t know much about it beyond David Tennant gifs I’d seen on Tumblr. By the end of the evening, I didn’t have any more knowledge besides “he’s THE doctor, not A doctor.” But my curiosity was piqued. I started watching the series on my own from Christopher Eccleston’s season onward, and it solidified my love for The Doctor and my love for campy sci-fi television shows in general. [Shanicka Anderson]

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10 / 13

The Predator, Predator

The Predator, Predator

While I’m tempted to steal Sam’s fancy-ass suggestion of the tentacle aliens from Arrival, it would be a lie. (Not enough personality!) Similarly, Ripley from Alien: Resurrection gets dismissed on a technicality (more a human-alien hybrid than actual alien), even though I relish any opportunity to link to Sigourney Weaver making that miraculous basketball shot. So my vote goes to the original Predator. Not the noble, arguably respectful ones of Alien Vs. Predator, but the hunt-you-down-and-slice-you-to-ribbons, howl-at-Arnold-Schwarzenegger, mock-your-feeble-efforts-at-vengeance baddie from the 1986 classic. That guy is fun as hell—for anyone who’s not a member of an elite paramilitary team rescuing hostages in a Central American rainforest, that is. [Alex McLevy]

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11 / 13

The aliens from TerrorVision

The aliens from TerrorVision

I admire the matriarchal ferocity of the Xenomorph, and coo over baby Grogu like anyone else with eyes, but my heart belongs to a much goofier—and goopier—extraterrestrial. Don’t ask me why, but I’ve always loved the unnamed, ravenous space invader from the 1986 sci-fi horror comedy TerrorVision, a being that travels the galaxy through satellite dishes and has the ability to disguise itself as a human—from the neck up, anyway. (It’s all tentacles down below.) Maybe it’s because he’s kind of like E.T., if E.T. wanted to swallow Elliott whole. Or maybe it’s because his garbled shrieking was performed by veteran voice actor Frank Welker, who worked on pretty much every cartoon you remember from the ’80s and ’90s. Most likely, it’s because the movie is infectiously stupid cheesy fun, and the beast himself unique in the ’80s horror canon. His resemblance to Clickhole’s Guzmer doesn’t hurt, though. [Katie Rife]

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12 / 13

The “gorilla-wolf motherfuckers” from Attack The Block

The “gorilla-wolf motherfuckers” from Attack The Block

Illustration for article titled Who’s your favorite alien?
Screenshot: Optimum Releasing

Shanicka, how dare you deny me another opportunity to write about Doctor Who on this website? If I can’t pick The Doctor, I’ll go with an alien from another U.K. export starring Jodie Whittaker: those “big alien gorilla-wolf motherfuckers” from the 2011 cult-classic sci-fi/horror/comedy/social thriller, Attack The Block. It’s the striking but utilitarian design that does it for me. They have no extraneous features; they’re just masses of non-reflective pure black fur with glowing fangs, driven only by primal desires. I still haven’t seen any other alien quite like it. [Baraka Kaseko]

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