6 Alien Movies Based on True Stories That Are Out of This World

We're not sure if they live among us, but they do live in our tv screens.

Updated December 8, 2023
Couple watching a movie at the cinema

If you asked me what was on my bingo card for 2019, a Facebook event turned internet in-joke inviting people to storm Area 51 wouldn't have checked any of my boxes. But the renewed hype around U.F.O.s and alien sightings in the past year has made the stars more relevant than ever.

So, grab your tinfoil hats and some popcorn, because we're bringing you the best and strangest alien movies based on true stories. 

Fire in the Sky (1993), Directed by Robert Lieberman 

Are alien abductions the Y2K event Gen Z needs to worry about? This movie, a Hollywood version of the Travis Walton story, suggests it just might be.

And you can stream it through Max, Hulu, YouTube, or Amazon Prime

Hollywood's Narrative 

Fire in the Sky stars D.B. Sweeney, Robert Patrick, and Craig Sheffer. It covers the supposed 1975 abduction of Travis Walton in Snowflake, Arizona. A group of friends and co-workers claim their friend was abducted while they were on their way home after working to clear an area of the woods.

Naturally, no one believes their story, and instead, they're accused of murder. When the missing man returns, he can't remember what's happened, but the mysterious memories slowly leak into his consciousness.

What Really Happened 

The 1993 film is based on the book Fire in the Sky: The Walton Experience (which is currently out-of-print), written by the man who claims to have been abducted. It's a firsthand account of what happened on November 5, 1975, and describes the events after he woke up on the spaceship.

Interestingly, Walton and his friends' testimonies passed polygraph tests. Though, the judicial system doesn't consider it admissible, so their veracity is still up in the air. But any good story has its skeptics, and journalist Philip J. Klass attempted to debunk Walton's claims in his own book, UFOs: The Public Deceived.

Roswell (1994), Directed by Jeremy Kagan 

No, we're not talking about the many sci-fi shows that share the same name as this 1994 film. Instead, we're talking about Kyle MacLachlan and Martin Sheen, of Twin Peaks and West Wing fame, gallivanting around the New Mexico desert playing hide and seek with aliens.

To catch this movie, you'll have to go old school and find a physical copy. 

Hollywood's Narrative 

Using flashbacks as their main narrative device, the film slowly unveils the notorious events that happened in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. What follows is a few men's efforts to uncover the truth behind the "downed weather balloon" that crash landed, and their struggles to conceive of life beyond the stars. 

What Really Happened 

Out of all alien encounters to make it to the big leagues, the Roswell UFO incident is a shoo-in for winning the World Series. In July 1947, a UFO supposedly crashed in Roswell, New Mexico and the remains were carted off by the U.S. military to a secret location called Area 51. 

According to the U.S. Air Force, the aliens "were actually anthropomorphic test dummies that were carried aloft by U.S. Air Force high altitude balloons for scientific research." But one 1947 report from the FBI archives attests to testimonies of an "object purporting to be a flying disc" in the area. 

Night Skies (2007), Directed by Roy Knyrim

If you like a dollop of horror with your sci-fi, then Night Skies is the film for you. But be forewarned, the alien ship in this one isn't the kind you want to accept an invitation from. 

If you're interested, you can watch it on Tubi for free. 

Hollywood's Narrative 

The film follows four friends on their cross-country trip to Las Vegas, Nevada. Thanks to an ill-fated shortcut (have Wrong Turn movies taught us nothing?), the RV crashes, and in the chaos, a knife almost kills one of the characters.

But Deliverance 2.0 isn't what they have to worry about in these woods — it's violent aliens. Some disbelief, abducting, and body horror later wrapped up in the best kind of B-movie quality, and you've got the mythical Cassandra ending to win them all. 

What Really Happened  

Unsurprisingly, this movie took serious liberties with the actual events that inspired it. The Phoenix Lights, in which thousands of people describe seeing lights in the skies over the American southwest in March 1997, is one of the largest UFO sightings in recorded history. 

According to newspaper reports, the "lights formed the shape of a boomerang" and moved through the night sky. Although there's no official explanation, many people in the scientific community believe it was just lights falling behind a mountain range. 

The Fourth Kind (2009), Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi

This 2009 feature starring Milla Jovovich is embroiled in controversy, but not for the type that you might think. 

You can take a gander at this movie for under $5 on Amazon Prime or Apple TV+.

Hollywood's Narrative  

This thriller features Milla Jovovich, Charlotte Milchard, and Will Patton. Set in Alaska, the film explores an area with a high number of mysterious abductions.

A psychologist begins taping video sessions with some of her patients and discovers chilling evidence that supports the theory that alien abductions do occur, and that these extraterrestrial creatures might have even come for her already. 

What Really Happened 

The Fourth Kind is loosely — and boy do we mean loosely —  based on a series of disappearances in Nome, Alaska. The FBI, after a series of investigations, believes the disappearances were a result of combining excessive alcohol use with the harsh winter climates. Though family members suspect a serial killer was involved, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

Despite claims that the film is based on a real psychologist's "archival footage," the paper trail for said psychologist and footage has ran cold. So, while the movie is based on disappearances, they're likely not of the "third kind" kind. 

Apollo 18 (2012), Directed by Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego 

After 11, the Apollos just start to jumble up in our brains. But you aren't mistaken if Apollo 18 doesn't jog your memory. NASA claims the mission wasn't technically cancelled, but renumbered to fit within the existing NASA strategy, though Hollywood presents a different story entirely. 

Explore the moon with the crew on Tubi or YouTube for free. 

Hollywood's Narrative 

The tagline of this 2012 film is, "Discover the reason we never went back." It covers Apollo 18, a secret 1970s mission that followed the "last" manned visit to the moon. NASA supposedly cancelled the mission, but — funded by the U.S. Department of Defense — it continue on its maiden voyage. And what would any movie featuring alien encounters be without a little found footage action giving us a peek at extraterestrial life? 

What Really Happened 

Now, this movie is about as loosely based on a real encounter as possible. The facts are that the Apollo 18 mission was planned. Beyond that, liberties were obviously taken.

But some people are staunch believers in this conspiracy theory of Apollo 18's secret flight, and who are we to deny them their fun? 

The Vast of Night (2019), Directed by Andrew Patterson 

One of the most recent alien encounter films to hit streaming platforms was The Vast of Night starring Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz. This period piece mixes fact with fiction, in a suspenseful, cliffhanger-ending turn of events. 

You need to have an Amazon Prime subscription to find out what happens. 

Hollywood's Narrative 

Set in New Mexico in the 1950s, the film follows a teenage jockey and switchboard operator as they become embroiled in a mystery of extraterrestrial proportions. What starts as a curious broadcast turns into a detective story the X-Files team would drool over. 

What Really Happened

The 2019 film takes bits and pieces from two major alien stories — the Kecksburg UFO Incident and the Foss Lake Disappearances, according to Vanity Fair. The first happened in December 1965 when six people reported seeing a fireball in the sky. The latter of which occurred four years later when three adults (and their 52 Chevy) vanished.

If that isn't weird enough, a year later three MORE people and their 69 Camaro vanished. For years the disappearances went unsolved, and so alien abduction wasn't that big of a leap. But the cars and bodies were found in Foss Lake, Oklahoma in 2013. However, real truthers will tell you that finding their bodies doesn't mean aliens didn't get to them first. 

They Live in Our TV Screens 

Whether you like your alien abduction media as tongue-in-cheek as Kate McKinnon's tantalizing abduction SNL monologue or as serious as a hard-hitting documentary, one thing is for certain — you (and we) — can't get enough. So, separate the wheat from the chaff with these alien encounter movies rooted in real life. 

6 Alien Movies Based on True Stories That Are Out of This World