By EW Staff
Updated May 28, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
The War of the Worlds
Credit: The War of the Worlds: Everett Collection

The War of the Worlds

”The War of the Worlds” made our list of best disaster movies

FAMILIAR FACES Um… Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, Les Tremayne?

UH-OH! In this update of the H.G. Wells novel, Martians (who pilot small flying craft that look like a hybrid of a manta ray and a gooseneck desk lamp) threaten to wipe out humanity with some nasty lasers.

DISASTROUS DIALOGUE ”If they’re mortal, they have mortal weaknesses. They’ll be stopped, somehow.” —Dr. Clayton Forrester (Barry)

SAVING THE DAY Scientist Forrester searches for that weakness as the U.S. Army throws everything from tanks to nuclear weapons at the invaders. The Martians prove resistant to firepower, but not to microbes.

AFTERSHOCKS The model for all future alien-invasion movies, War was a standout among Cold War-era sci-fi epics, a milestone for fantasy film producer George Pal (who went on to adapt Wells’ The Time Machine in 1960), and an inspiration to this day as the obvious precedent for Independence Day and Mars Attacks!. (Also for Mystery Science Theater 3000, whose mad scientist took his name from this movie’s hero.) Barry and Robinson had cameos as the grandparents in the 2005 Steven Spielberg/Tom Cruise remake.

WHY YOU SHOULD SEE IT Sure, it features cardboard characterizations and stock sci-fi movie moments, but War remains a remarkably scary movie, with a vivid Technicolor look, dramatic special effects, and a lean running time of just 85 minutes.


The War of the Worlds

  • Movie
  • Byron Haskin